The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

Book - 1999
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"The Colony of Unrequited Dreams" is Newfoundland--that vast, haunting near-continent upon which the two lovers and adversaries of this miraculously inventive novel pursue their ambitions. Joey Smallwood, sprung from almost Dickensian privation, is a scholarship boy at a private school, where his ready wit bests the formidably tart-tongued Sheilagh Fielding. Their dual fates become forever linked by an anonymous letter to a local paper critical of the school--a letter whose mysterious authorship will weigh heavily on their lives. Driven by socialist dreams and political desire, Smallwood will walk a railroad line the breadth of Newfoundland in a journey of astonishing power and beauty, to unionize the workers--and make his name. Fielding, now a popular newspaper columnist, provides--in her journalism, her diaries, and her bleakly hilarious "Condensed History of Newfoundland"--a satirical and eloquent counternarrative to Smallwood's story. As the decades pass and Smallwood's rise converges with Newfoundland's emerging autonomy, these two vexed characters must confront their own frailties and secrets--and their mutual (if doomed) love. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams combines erudition, unflagging narrative brio, and emotional depth in a manner reminiscent of the best of Robertson Davies and John Irving. Set in a landscape already made familiar to American readers by Annie Proulx and Howard Norman, it establishes Wayne Johnston as a novelist who is as profound as he is funny, with an unerringly ironic sense of the intersection where private lives and history collide.
Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 1999.
Edition: 1st ed. in the U.S.A.
ISBN: 9780385495424
0385495420
Branch Call Number: JOHN
Characteristics: 562p. 24cm.

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zipread
Aug 14, 2018

If someone had told me what sort of book Johnston written I would probably have pushed it away, rejected. Bad enough that it would be a Can-lit book but worse, it's about Newfoundland, a place I have never been to and with which, most absurdly, I would not be able to identify. And yet, this novel, perhaps sliding into the category of "chick lit" because it dare show emotion, put a lump in your throat and cause you to tear up, at least a little' in places. Colony is also a tragedy, a tragedy of misunderstanding, of secrets kept and secrets told. At the same time that it engages your emotions it also paints the pictures of the island; although the book is not a biography there's Joe Smallwood, the runt of a man, self conscious forever of his class, his education and, perhaps most importantly, his slight build; there are the seal-fishermen huddled together, frozen, knowing their rescue will come too late; and Smallwood, walking the the tracks of the railroad from end to end in the depths of a frozen winter signing up men to the union. There is the hunger; the shabbiness; y\the sharing of what little people have with the stranger. I'm glad no one told me what this book was about; I'm glad it gave me the chance to read a very good novel.

s
spiderfelt_0
Jan 29, 2017

As the daughter of a Newfoundlander who left as a young man, and as I have only visited a handful of times, this title filled in some of the vital history necessary to understand this place. I wish I had read it before my grandparents died so I could ask them more about the times described by the author.

Bunny_Watson716 Dec 15, 2016

This is one of my all-time favourite Canadian novels! I have read it many times and have a deep affection for the characters - it's absolutely worth reading.

n
NWPLindabear
Dec 14, 2016

This book is amazing. My husband is from Newfoundland and as a (silly) American, I knew nothing of the area. Upon a recommendation, I picked this up and read right through it. It was a great history of the area and its people and fully engrossing. Beautifully written and does not feel as long as its many pages.

Barbarajean 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.

m
mudhens
Feb 19, 2015

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

brianreynolds 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.

c
Carmine1
Jan 27, 2013

Great piece of Canadiana writing.

c
carmenweiss
Feb 03, 2012

Gave up pretty early on this one.

a
AnamCara
Jan 25, 2008

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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spiderfelt
Jul 16, 2012

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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