The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams

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The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams

by Wayne Johnston

Knopf Canada | September 8, 1999 | Trade Paperback

The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams is rated 4.1111 out of 5 by 9.
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, a Canadian bestseller, is a novel about Newfoundland that centres on the story of Joe Smallwood, the true-life controversial political figure who ushered the island through confederation with Canada and became its first premier. Narrated from Smallwood''s perspective, it voices a deep longing on the part of the Newfoundlander to do something significant, “commensurate with the greatness of the land itself”. The New York Times said, “this prodigious, eventful, character-rich book is a noteworthy achievement: a biting, entertaining and inventive saga.... a brilliant and bravura literary performance”.

Smallwood, born in 1900, is the first of thirteen children raised from the ‘scruff’ of Newfoundland, as opposed to the ‘quality’. The colony is seen as an unworthy and negligible place: as his teacher from England says, “The worst of our lot comes over here, inbreeds for several hundred years and the end-product is a hundred thousand Newfoundlanders with Smallwood at the bottom of the barrel.”

Smallwood, who still weighs only 75 pounds at the age of 20, seems an unlikely hero to fulfil what he sees as his mission: to transform the ‘old lost land’, with its lack of identity, into ‘the new found land’; and meanwhile to rise “not from rags to riches, but from obscurity to world renown.” With perseverance and determination, he sets about the task, becoming a journalist for a socialist newspaper in New York and then a union leader, at one point walking the 700-mile railway track across the island to sell memberships to the section-men living in shacks. He sees beyond his unpromising background, the cold and unrelenting hardship and isolation, envisioning a proud and great destiny. Eventually, a politician full of wild moneymaking schemes, he is swept into a world of intrigues and the machinations of the power elite, just as Newfoundland must decide whether to become an independent country or to join Canada.

In counterpoint to the earnest endeavours of Smallwood, champion of the poor and the workers, is the Dorothy Parker-like figure of his lifelong friend, Sheilagh Fielding. Their paths first cross at the private school from which Smallwood is expelled, falsely accused of writing a letter critical of the school, and thenceforth their lives are inextricably intertwined. Fielding becomes an acerbic newspaper columnist, a hard drinker with a sharp tongue who shares a strange love-hate relationship with Smallwood. Her cynical columns and personal journals are interspersed among Smallwood’s account, along with her irreverent and satirical Condensed History of Newfoundland.

In writing a work of the imagination in part inspired by historical events, Johnston wanted “to fashion out of the formless infinitude of ‘facts’…a work of art that would express a felt, emotional truth... Adherence to the ‘facts’ will not lead you safely through the labyrinthine pathways of the human heart.” Johnston was 19 when he met the real Joe Smallwood; he was just starting out as a journalist, and Smallwood was less than complimentary about Johnston’s reporting. Although the politician died only in 1991, little was written about his life before the age of fifty, allowing Johnston some license to imagine his formative influences.

“I wanted to write a big book about Newfoundland in scope and in vision. I couldn''t think of a bigger character whose life touched on more themes, involved the whole of Newfoundland more completely than Smallwood did.” Smallwood saw Newfoundland in terms of “unrealized talent and unfulfilled ambition”; his life was somehow emblematic of the land. Moreover, says Johnston, “He was so prone to making mistakes and so fallible, and he combines so many contradictions in his personality. His quest, like that of many great literary figures of the past century, is to overcome these divisions.” The completely invented character of Fielding, meanwhile, “is like me”, says Johnston. “I share her view of Newfoundland.”

The title of the book, Johnston says, evokes “the nostalgia Newfoundlanders have felt for the possibilities of the island, and that they still have for the future. Joe is always searching for something commensurate with the greatness of the land itself, but he can''t find it, and it''s driving him mad…Newfoundland is that kind of place. It makes you want to live up to the landscape, but on the other hand it offers you no resources to do so. There''s always this constant yearning that at least for my part helped me to start writing.”

Smallwood’s chronicle of his development from poor schoolboy to Father of the Confederation is a story full of epic journeys and thwarted loves, travelling from the ice floes of the seal hunt to New York City, in a style reminiscent at times of John Irving, Robertson Davies and Charles Dickens. Absorbing and entertaining, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams provides us with a deep perspective on the relationship between private lives and what comes to be understood as history and shows, as E. Annie Proulx commented, “Wayne Johnston is a brilliant and accomplished writer.”

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 608 pages, 7.99 × 5.15 × 1.3 in

Published: September 8, 1999

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676972152

ISBN - 13: 9780676972153

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Genuine Newfoundland Character This is an ambitious book that attempts to redefine all we think we know of Joey Smallwood. To take this genuine and formidable NL character and use him in such a meaty work of historical fiction was brave of Wayne Johnson to say the least. To read his quirky earlier works and then dive into "Colony" is to dive with Johnson out of his comfort level and enter a new realm of possibility in the work of fiction. Colony illustrates everything that is right about a good historical fiction. Take something and someone you believe you know and place it under the microscope of daily live where characters love and lose, win and fail. Wayne Johnson's masterpiece.
Date published: 2009-08-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Don't waste your time Unless you wish to spend your valuable time reading a novel that is drier than the paper upon which it's written it's not worth it. A very depressing, long labour to read.
Date published: 2007-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a man trapped by his own history In 1949 the British colony of Newfoundland and Labrador entered Confederation to become the youngest province in the Dominion of Canada. The man responsible for the political move was Joey Smallwood. Smallwood was a curious figure from the start. A man convinced of his own history and somewhat of a Canadian with a Napoleon complex. Too bad for Smallwood that the island of Newfoundland had not the resources nor he the access to build an empire. However, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, is a sweeping fictional tale based on an actual person. Spanning 50 years in the life of a consuming ambition, this book seeks to explain the strange and odd policies that emerged from the very first premier of Newfoundland. Smallwood had desired to be Prime Minister of Great Britian but settled for his own inaugural leadership role. Today he is as much a part of the province as Churchill still is to Britain. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is about a man, a vision, a political hunger without a core compass, and a love that remains forever just a wish. The female Fielding character is an imaginative stresser for Joey through the years, but she embodies the heart of his dreams that are sabotaged by his own inner ghosts and frustrations.
Date published: 2006-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Colony of Unrequited Dreams I quite liked the book. The style of writing, the story, the diary and the history book was unusual in the beginning, but as you got into the story, it made it quite fascinating. You knew you would find out different information, depending what part you were reading. I didn't know a great deal about Joey Smallwood before I read the book and it taught me a lot.
Date published: 2003-04-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from One Man's Dream Knowing the background of a person and the hardships they endured is the key to knowing what they're really about. This book is a fictional account of Joey Smallwood, focusing mostly on his life leading up to his greatest acheivement, bringing Newfoundland into Confederation. It provided a strong insight into the political person he was, and explored the possibilities of his deepest hearts desires. "Dreams" leaves one with a feeling of knowing Mr. Smallwood on a very personal level, at a time in his life when his destiny was unsure. It leaves one with the desire to further explore the accomplishments of this great man and his immortalized history.
Date published: 2000-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Take it from a Newfoundlander.... Read the book. A brilliant, powerful story of Newfoundland history that touches on the very isolation that was outport Newfoundland at the beginning of the 20th Century as we struggled to make our way as a country. Eloquently written, with a cast of characters as unique and intriguing as the province itself. A must read for anyone, especially those with ties to Newfoundland, or those wanting to understand the inexplicable tie all Newfoundlanders have for "the Rock" we call home. For remember, "thou art a Newfoundlander and unto Newfoundland thou shalt return."
Date published: 2000-09-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Joey Smallwood's Slow Rise This is a really good book. Having said that, it must also be said that two of the major components of this novel are less than successful. The central "mystery" is ultimately of little consequence and one of the two main characters around whom this intricate, fascinating novel is wound is pretty shallow and ultimately uninteresting. However, the story of Joey Smallwood and his times and his native Newfoundland is incredibly well told. Gripping, funny, pathetic and full of adventures, Smallwood's life as portrayed in this book may not be 100% historically accurate, but man, is it ever entertaining. This novel; is so good, that despite a couple of major flaws, it is destined to be a classic of Canadian literature.
Date published: 2000-09-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Glen from Edmonton The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston is a gripping read. He recounts a very believable story about one of the most famous characters in Newfoundland's history. He does this by highlighting Joey Smallwood's relationship with the ubiquitous Fielding while at the same time reminding us of Smallwood's family and his roots. It illustrates how closely all aspects of life are linked. Through Smallwood, we are shown how persistence and the desire to never disappear can be interesting ingredients for life and can result in longevity. It is a must read for anyone who likes to cheer for the underdog.
Date published: 2000-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Colony of Unrequited Dreams Johnston does an amazing job of telling a fictional story filled with a large amount of truth. This easy-to-read book is my all-time favourite, as it tells the story of Joey Smallwood, a young man with no chances in life, whose one dream is to be Prime Minister of Newfoundland. Terrific for anyone wanting a great story of dreams, love and life.
Date published: 2000-01-27

– More About This Product –

The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams

by Wayne Johnston

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 608 pages, 7.99 × 5.15 × 1.3 in

Published: September 8, 1999

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676972152

ISBN - 13: 9780676972153

Read from the Book

Besides what little clothing I had, I didn''t bring much with me except my oilcloth map of Newfoundland, a fishermen''s union pullover with its codfish-emblazoned badge, which I planned to wear while working at the Call, and my father''s History of Newfoundland. My parents and brothers and sisters went with me to the railway station to say goodbye, and though they made quite a fuss, especially my mother and the girls (my father and the boys manfully shook hands with me and clapped me on the back), they were upstaged by the entire Jewish community of St. John''s, about whom I had written a laudatory feature in the Telegram two months before and who were surreally on hand to see me off, waving their black hats and weeping as if one of their number was leaving them for good. Because of them and because of my oversized nose, many of my fellow passengers took me to be Jewish, a misconception I did nothing to discourage, since it made them less likely to sit with me, not because they had anything against the Jews, but simply because they doubted they could sustain a conversation for long with so exotic an individual. Normally, there is nothing I would rather do than talk, and I knew if I got started I might well talk all the way from St. John''s to Port aux Basques, oblivious to the landscape we were passing through. I would, many times in the future, spend cross-country train trips in just that manner, staying awake twenty-eight hours at a stretch, hardly noticing when one exhaust
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From the Publisher

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, a Canadian bestseller, is a novel about Newfoundland that centres on the story of Joe Smallwood, the true-life controversial political figure who ushered the island through confederation with Canada and became its first premier. Narrated from Smallwood''s perspective, it voices a deep longing on the part of the Newfoundlander to do something significant, “commensurate with the greatness of the land itself”. The New York Times said, “this prodigious, eventful, character-rich book is a noteworthy achievement: a biting, entertaining and inventive saga.... a brilliant and bravura literary performance”.

Smallwood, born in 1900, is the first of thirteen children raised from the ‘scruff’ of Newfoundland, as opposed to the ‘quality’. The colony is seen as an unworthy and negligible place: as his teacher from England says, “The worst of our lot comes over here, inbreeds for several hundred years and the end-product is a hundred thousand Newfoundlanders with Smallwood at the bottom of the barrel.”

Smallwood, who still weighs only 75 pounds at the age of 20, seems an unlikely hero to fulfil what he sees as his mission: to transform the ‘old lost land’, with its lack of identity, into ‘the new found land’; and meanwhile to rise “not from rags to riches, but from obscurity to world renown.” With perseverance and determination, he sets about the task, becoming a journalist for a socialist newspaper in New York and then a union leader, at one point walking the 700-mile railway track across the island to sell memberships to the section-men living in shacks. He sees beyond his unpromising background, the cold and unrelenting hardship and isolation, envisioning a proud and great destiny. Eventually, a politician full of wild moneymaking schemes, he is swept into a world of intrigues and the machinations of the power elite, just as Newfoundland must decide whether to become an independent country or to join Canada.

In counterpoint to the earnest endeavours of Smallwood, champion of the poor and the workers, is the Dorothy Parker-like figure of his lifelong friend, Sheilagh Fielding. Their paths first cross at the private school from which Smallwood is expelled, falsely accused of writing a letter critical of the school, and thenceforth their lives are inextricably intertwined. Fielding becomes an acerbic newspaper columnist, a hard drinker with a sharp tongue who shares a strange love-hate relationship with Smallwood. Her cynical columns and personal journals are interspersed among Smallwood’s account, along with her irreverent and satirical Condensed History of Newfoundland.

In writing a work of the imagination in part inspired by historical events, Johnston wanted “to fashion out of the formless infinitude of ‘facts’…a work of art that would express a felt, emotional truth... Adherence to the ‘facts’ will not lead you safely through the labyrinthine pathways of the human heart.” Johnston was 19 when he met the real Joe Smallwood; he was just starting out as a journalist, and Smallwood was less than complimentary about Johnston’s reporting. Although the politician died only in 1991, little was written about his life before the age of fifty, allowing Johnston some license to imagine his formative influences.

“I wanted to write a big book about Newfoundland in scope and in vision. I couldn''t think of a bigger character whose life touched on more themes, involved the whole of Newfoundland more completely than Smallwood did.” Smallwood saw Newfoundland in terms of “unrealized talent and unfulfilled ambition”; his life was somehow emblematic of the land. Moreover, says Johnston, “He was so prone to making mistakes and so fallible, and he combines so many contradictions in his personality. His quest, like that of many great literary figures of the past century, is to overcome these divisions.” The completely invented character of Fielding, meanwhile, “is like me”, says Johnston. “I share her view of Newfoundland.”

The title of the book, Johnston says, evokes “the nostalgia Newfoundlanders have felt for the possibilities of the island, and that they still have for the future. Joe is always searching for something commensurate with the greatness of the land itself, but he can''t find it, and it''s driving him mad…Newfoundland is that kind of place. It makes you want to live up to the landscape, but on the other hand it offers you no resources to do so. There''s always this constant yearning that at least for my part helped me to start writing.”

Smallwood’s chronicle of his development from poor schoolboy to Father of the Confederation is a story full of epic journeys and thwarted loves, travelling from the ice floes of the seal hunt to New York City, in a style reminiscent at times of John Irving, Robertson Davies and Charles Dickens. Absorbing and entertaining, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams provides us with a deep perspective on the relationship between private lives and what comes to be understood as history and shows, as E. Annie Proulx commented, “Wayne Johnston is a brilliant and accomplished writer.”

About the Author

Wayne Johnston was born and raised in the St. John''s area of Newfoundland. His #1 nationally bestselling novels include The Custodian of Paradise, The Navigator of New York and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, which was an international bestseller and will be made into a film. Johnston is also the author of an award-winning and bestselling memoir, Baltimore''s Mansion. He lives in Toronto.

From Our Editors

Joe Smallwood has defied all the odds, clawing his way up from obscurity to become Newfoundland’s first premier. His only problem is Sheilagh Fielding, a popular newspaper columnist and gifted satirist who casts a haunting shadow over Smallwood’s life and career. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is both a mystery -- and a love story --spanning five decades.

Editorial Reviews

"It may be the Great American Novel, except it happens to be about Newfoundland." —Calvin Trillin, The Globe and Mail , 2002 "My big fiction treat this year." —Ann-Marie MacDonald, National Post "As absorbing as fiction can be — and [from] one of our continent''s best writers." — Kirkus Reviews "The scope of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is vast, its humour is quiet and assured, its mixture of fact and fiction is altogether bracing, and its writing is about as beautiful and as imaginative as writing gets these days." —David Macfarlane, The Globe and Mail "A masterpiece — Mr. Johnston has a genius in him — and a haunting, unmitigated, uncanny vision and grace." —Howard Norman, author of The Museum Guard and The Bird Artist "This splendid, entertaining novel is both a version of David Copperfield transposed to 20th-century Newfoundland, and an evocation of vanished ways of life.... Rich and complex, it offers Dickensian pleasures." —Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and The Voyage of the Narwhal "A spellbinding, must-read tale.... Johnston''s authentic sense of place, history and romance are woven into a magical tapestry." — Winnipeg Free Press "Wayne Johnston is a brilliant and accomplished writer and his Newfoundland — boots and boats, rough politics and rough country, history and journalism — during the wild Smallwood years i
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Bookclub Guide

1. The New York Times said Newfoundland asserts itself as a setting in the novel “to the point of claiming a character role”; also that “the profound but…doomed love between [Fielding] and Smallwood is the novel’s heart and soul”. To what extent do you think the novel is about Smallwood and Fielding, and to what extent is it about Newfoundland?

2. How do Fielding and Smallwood’s views of Newfoundland differ?

3. “There is no reason for us to be so much in the thrall of our historical figures that we cannot suspend our disbelief when writers of fiction ring variations on their lives,” wrote Johnston in The Globe and Mail, after a journalist complained that Joey Smallwood was too much “within reach of memory” to be a fit subject for a novel. How might a reader’s knowledge (or lack of knowledge) about the real Joey Smallwood affect the reading of the novel?

4. Can you compare The Colony of Unrequited Dreams to another novel of Newfoundland — or to a novel by John Irving or Charles Dickens?

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