The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

Johnston, Wayne

Book - 1999
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
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Random House, Inc.
The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams--at once a mystery and a love story spanning five decades and an epic portrait of passion and ambition set against the beautiful, brutal landscape of Newfoundland. In this widely acclaimed novel Johnston has created two of the most memorable characters in recent fiction: Joey Smallwood, who claws his way up from poverty to become Newfoundland's first premier; and Sheilagh Fielding, who renounces her father's wealth to become a popular columnist and writer, a gifted satirist who casts a haunting shadow on Smallwood's life and career.
A mystery and a love story spanning five decades, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is an epic portrait of passion and ambition, set against the beautiful, brutal landscape of Newfoundland. In this widely acclaimed novel, Johnston has created two of the most memorable characters in recent fiction: Joey Smallwood, who claws his way up from poverty to become New Foundland's first premier; and Sheilagh Fielding, who renounces her father's wealth to become a popular columnist and writer, a gifted satirist who casts a haunting shadow on Smallwood's life and career.

The two meet as children at school and grow to realize that their lives are irreversibly intertwined, bound together by a secret they don't know they share. Smallwood, always on the make, torn between love of country and fear of failure, is as reluctant to trust the private truths of his heart as his rival and savior, Fielding--brilliant, hard-drinking, and unconventionally sexy. Their story ranges from small-town Newfoundland to New York City, from the harrowing ice floes of the seal hunt to the lavish drawing rooms of colonial governors, and combines erudition, comedy, and unflagging narrative brio in a manner reminiscent of John Irving and Charles Dickens. A tragicomic elegy for the "colony of unrequited dreams" that is Newfoundland, Wayne Johnston's masterful tribute to a people and a place establishes him as a novelist who is as profound as he is funny, with an impeccable sense of the intersection where private lives and history collide.

Baker & Taylor
Joey Smallwood, a privileged boy intent on making a name for himself, and Shelagh Fielding, a journalist who pens his rise to power, confront their own frailties, secrets, and mutual love, in an immensely rich and utterly involving novel of twentieth-century Newfoundland. Reprint. 40,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 1999, c1998
ISBN: 0385495439
0385495420
Branch Call Number: FIC J
Characteristics: 562 p. ; 25 cm.

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Mar 01, 2015

I really enjoyed this book which had everything one could want in a book--plot, character, good writing, and history. I highly recommend it.

Feb 19, 2015
  • mudhens rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

Couldn't determine where exactly the fiction and the history parted ways but I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Apr 03, 2013

I am typically a harsh critic of historical fiction (a crude subject heading that allows for the inclusion of fictionalized history) so it was both surprising and enchanting to discover in Wayne Johnston's The Colony of Unrequited Dreams a beautiful story tucked into a bed of "real" events and people. For those easily side-tracked by history, for those that read primarily to "better themselves," beware the temptation to think this is the story of Joey Smallwood just because he is the first-person narrator of the hefty part of the tome. The character is a self-confessed windbag. Lest the reader be misled by the love we all hold for anyone with a recognizable nametag, Johnston gives Smallwood a lucid moment near the end where he is self-depicted as "...absurd, vain, pompous, strutting, and ambitious..." This is not the description of a character that I would willingly follow through his lifetime of foolishness, not without some incentive beyond merely cozying up to a fictional final father of Confederation. The real story is about Shelagh Fielding. She begins it. She ends it. She moves it. It is her unrelenting, inexplicable, unrequited love of Joey that allows the reader to have some hope, if little sympathy, for the bumbling accidental politician that one can only hope was a caricature of the real Smallwood. It is Fielding—with her razor wit, her strength, her poignant suffering, her ironic position as the saviour of Smallwood's career, his moral compass, his very life—that feeds the hungry reader. It is in her life, nestled in the same obscurity as Shawnawdithit's, we search for meaningful lessons, we see the reflection of the unforgiving landscape of the novel. It is her brave and stoic separation from the love of her children, her parents, her lover that trumps whatever losses to corruption and incompetence her countrymen have suffered. Never have I read a more palatable account of "real" suffering and loss.

Jan 27, 2013
  • Carmine1 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Great piece of Canadiana writing.

Feb 03, 2012
  • carmenweiss rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

Gave up pretty early on this one.

Jan 25, 2008
  • AnamCara rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I really enjoyed this book. It was the first of Wayne Johnston's that I read. I would high recommend it.

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Jul 16, 2012
  • spiderfelt rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

To leave or not to leave, and having left, to stay away or to go back home. I knew of Newfoundlanders who had gone to their graves without having settled the question, some who never left but were forever planning to and some who went away for good but were forever on the verge of going home. Page 144

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