Baltimore's Mansion: A Memoir by Wayne JohnstonBaltimore's Mansion: A Memoir by Wayne Johnston

Baltimore's Mansion: A Memoir

byWayne Johnston

Paperback | September 26, 2000

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Baltimore's Mansion introduces us to the Johnstons of Ferryland, a Catholic colony founded by Lord Baltimore in the 1620s on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, and centres on three generations of fathers and sons. Filled with heart-stopping description and a cast of stubborn, acerbic, yet utterly irresistible family members, it is an evocation of a time and a place reminiscent of Wayne Johnston's best fiction.
WAYNE JOHNSTON was born and raised in the St. John's area of Newfoundland. His 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 bestsellin...
Title:Baltimore's Mansion: A MemoirFormat:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 7.99 × 5.19 × 0.84 inPublished:September 26, 2000Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0676972977

ISBN - 13:9780676972979

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Rated 1 out of 5 by from No. Just no I don't really understand how or why this got published. All I know is I was forced to read this in English and for that reason am never taking English again
Date published: 2015-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful read! This was a wonderful book. A masterful blending of personal history and fictional narrative, Johnston's style is captivating. It is easy to get lost in the storytelling and reminiscing that goes on throughout the novel. Johnston opens a window to a time and a place in Canada that is perhaps lost to non-Newfoundlanders. I really enjoyed how he blends coming-of-age themes for both the main protagonist and young Canada. I highly recommend this book!
Date published: 2010-08-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hooked on the first sentence and laughing out loud by page 2! There are but a wee few books that have me reading passages aloud to anyone who will listen, "Baltimore's Mansion" is one of them! I can only imagine that Wayne Johnston is well blessed with the Newfoundlander's 'gift of gab', his memoir reads like an entertaining "yarn". Now, being a Nova Scotian, and having a long-gone grandfather from Newfoundland, I thought I knew a thing or two about "mummers", wrong! When mummers show up on board the return trip home across the rails of Newfoundland in late December of ‘68, I thought I‘d die laughing!. Mix in a great Ghost Story, courtesy of Art Johnston (Wayne’s father), and you are in for a most memorable ride. Trust me, you don‘t want to miss this train! If you don't know what "a feed of tongues are" and even if (like me) you do, what has got to be the best description and corresponding story on record is in this book. You'll eat this one up (though you may want to pass on the fish-head stew … lol)!
Date published: 2008-08-01

Read from the Book

I am foreborn of spud runts who fled the famines of Ireland in the 1830s, not a man or woman among them more than five foot two, leaving behind a life of beggarment and setting sail for what since Malory were called the Happy Isles to take up unadvertised positions as servants in the underclass of Newfoundland.Having worked off their indenture, they who had been sea-fearing farmers became seafaring fishermen and learned some truck-augmenting trade or craft that they practised during the part of the year or day when they could not fish.Their names.In reverse order: Johnston. Johnson. Jonson. Jenson...MacKeown. "Mac" in Gaelic meaning "son" and Keown "John."My father grew up in a house that was blessed with water from an iceberg. A picture of that iceberg hung on the walls in the front rooms of the many houses I grew up in. It was a blown-up photograph that yellowed gradually with age until we could barely make it out. My grandmother, Nan Johnston, said the proper name for the iceberg was Our Lady of the Fjords, but we called it the Virgin Berg.In 1905, on June 24, the feast day of St. John the Baptist and the day in 1497 of John Cabot's landfall at Cape Bonavista and "discovery" of Newfoundland, an iceberg hundreds of feet high and bearing an undeniable likeness to the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared off St. John's harbour. As word of the apparition spread, thousands of people flocked to Signal Hill to get a glimpse of it. An ever-growing flotilla of fishing boats escorted it along the southern shore as it passed Petty Harbour, Bay Bulls, Tors Cove, Ferryland, where my father's grandparents and his father, Charlie, who was twelve, saw it from a rise of land known as the Gaze.At first the islands blocked their view and all they could see was the profile of the Virgin. But when it cleared Bois Island, they saw the iceberg whole. It resembled Mary in everything but colour. Mary's colours were blue and white, but the Virgin Berg was uniformly white, a startling white in the sunlight against the blue-green backdrop of the sea. Mary's cowl and shawl and robes were all one colour, the same colour as her face and hands, each feature distinguishable by shape alone. Charlie imagined that, under the water, was the marble pedestal, with its network of veins and cracks. Mary rode without one on the water and there did not extend outwards from her base the usual lighter shade of sea-green sunken ice.The ice was enfolded like layers of garment that bunched about her feet. Long drapings of ice hung from her arms, which were crossed below her neck, and her head was tilted down as in statues to meet in love and modesty the gaze of supplicants below.Charlie's mother fell to her knees, and then his father fell to his. Though he wanted to run up the hill to get a better look at the Virgin as some friends of his were doing, his parents made him kneel beside them. His mother reached up and, putting her hand on his shoulder, pulled him down. A convoy of full-masted schooners trailed out behind the iceberg like the tail of some massive kite. It was surrounded at the base by smaller vessels, fishing boats, traps, skiffs, punts. His mother said the Hail Mary over and over and blessed herself repeatedly, while his father stared as though witnessing some end-of-the-world-heralding event, some sight foretold by prophets in the last book of the Bible. Charlie was terrified by the look on his father's face and had to fight back the urge to cry. Everywhere, at staggered heights on the Gaze, people knelt, some side-on to keep their balance, others to avert their eyes, as if to look for too long on such a sight would be a sacrilege.A man none of them knew climbed the hill frantically, lugging his camera, which he assembled with shaking hands, trying to balance the tripod, propping up one leg of it with stones. He crouched under his blanket and held above his head a periscope-like box which, with a flash and a puff of foul-smelling yellow smoke, exploded, the mechanism confounded by the Virgin, Charlie thought, until days later when he saw the picture in the Daily News. Even then it seemed to him that the Virgin must have lent the man's machine the power to re-create in black and white her image on the paper, the same way she had willed the elements to fashion her image out of ice.He had seen photographs before but had never watched as one was taken. She was the first object he had seen both in real life and in photographs. For the rest of his life, whenever he saw a photograph, he thought of her and the man he had been so surprised to see emerge unharmed from beneath his blanket.How relieved he was when the Virgin Berg and her attending fleet sailed out of sight and his parents and the other grownups stood up and blessed themselves. Soon the miracle became mere talk, less and less miraculous the more they tried to describe what they had seen, as if, now that it was out of sight, they doubted that its shape had been quite as perfect as it seemed when it was looming there in front of them.They heard later of things they could not see from shore, of the water that ran in rivers from the Virgin, from her head and from her shoulders, and that spouted from wound-like punctures in her body, cascading down upon the boats below, onto the fishermen and into the barrels and buckets they manoeuvred into place as best they could. Some fishermen stood, eyes closed and mouths wide open, beneath the little waterfalls, gulping and gagging on the ice-cold water, their hats removed, their hair and clothing drenched, hands uplifted.

From Our Editors

This mildly amusing historical non-fiction novel by Wayne Johnston follows the antics of a family living in the 1620s on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. In Baltimore's Mansion, three generations of stubborn, acerbic, yet lovable family members as they struggle against the elements and each other. This sweeping work received rave reviews from The Globe and Mail and The National Post. It was also shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for non-fiction. Johnston is also the author of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and The Divine Ryans.

Editorial Reviews

"Incredibly moving, deeply personal and often hilarious."—The Toronto Star"A prodigiously talented author — Baltimore's Mansion ought to win a wide readership, especially among those of us grasping after the meaning of our own fathers' lives."—The Globe and Mail"Much more than a memoir — Johnston has used all the fictive techniques he has mastered as a mature literary artist to shape the materials of real life into a work of astonishing beauty and power."—National Post