The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams

The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams

Paperback | September 8, 1999

byWayne Johnston

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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.”

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The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams

Paperback | September 8, 1999
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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 --s...

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...

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 bestsel...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:608 pages, 7.99 × 5.15 × 1.3 inPublished:September 8, 1999Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0676972152

ISBN - 13:9780676972153

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Historical - sort of I did not realize I was reading a historical novel until I was already engrossed in the plot. The characters are so rich and engaging that not one of them could be forgotten.
Date published: 2015-09-09
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 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

Extra Content

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 exhausted listener made way for the next, but on this trip I wanted to keep to myself and that, for the most part, is what I did.The building of the railway had been one of the few great ventures in Newfoundland not connected with the fishery. Its primary purpose was not to link the scattered settlements around the coast, but to convey passengers and freight back and forth between the eastern and western seaports, St. John's and Port aux Basques, to give Newfoundlanders access to both the ships that crossed the ocean to England and those that crossed the gulf to the mainland. Its route was not determined by the sea, nor was the sea visible at more than a few points along the way.We started out from St. John's just after sunrise. In two hours, we had crossed the Bog of Avalon, a sixty-mile stretch of barrens and rock scraped bare and strewn with boulders since the ice age. This gave way to a lonely, undifferentiated tract of bog and rolling hills devoid of trees because of forest fires that had burned away even the topsoil so that nothing would ever grow there again that was more than three feet high. It was September, but not so far into the month that the browning of the barrens had begun. An overcast day with a west wind that would keep the fog at bay. There was beauty everywhere, but it was the bleak beauty of sparsity, scarcity and stuntedness, with nothing left but what a thousand years ago had been the forest floor, a landscape clear-cut by nature that never would recover on its own. It was a beauty so elusive, so tantalizingly suggestive of something you could not quite put into words that it could drive you mad and, however much you loved it, make you want to get away from it and recall it from some city and content yourself with knowing it was there.No one, not even aboriginals, had ever lived on this part of the island. It was impossible to speak of its history except in geological terms. On one treeless, wind-levelled stretch of barrens, there were crater-like sink-holes of mud where the surface had collapsed. I saw an eastward-leaning stand of junipers, all bent at the same angle to the earth as though half-levelled by a single gust of wind.Crossing the narrow isthmus of Avalon, I could for a time see ocean from both sides of the train. Fifty years later, after the train had ceased to run, travellers on the highway would be able to see from there the ruins of my refinery at Come by Chance; after it was mothballed, small amounts of crude oil would still be sent there for refining, so that, at night, you would be able to see the flame from the highest of the stacks from forty miles away.Next came the Bog of Bonavista, and I began to think that Newfoundland would be nothing but a succession of bogs with clumps of storm-stunted spruce trees in between. We stopped at Gambo, the town where I was born and that I was really seeing for the first time, having been too young when I left to remember anything about it. Gambo was the one place in the 253 miles between Port Blandford on the east coast and Humbermouth on the west coast where the railway touched the shoreline, but it was not a fishing village, for the cod did not come that far up Bonavista Bay. It was a logging town and a coastal supply depot, boats sailing up Bonavista Bay to unload their cargo there, where it was then reloaded onto the train and transported inland to towns whose only link with the rest of the island was one of the world's most primitive railways, a narrow-gauge track with spindle-thin rails on which the cars swayed about like sleds on ice.Gambo was not much to look at, just a cluster of crude, garishly painted one-storey houses, log cabins and unbelievably primitive tar-paper shacks whose front yards were linered with a lifetime of debris: bottles, wooden crates, discarded clothing, broken barrels. I self-ashamedly thanked God we had forsaken the place and our lumber business there in favour of St. John's. I saw the house where I was born -- my mother had described its location and appearance to me. I will admit that it was one of the better houses within view, a white, blue-trimmed two-storeyed salt-and-pepper house with a gabled attic window that I could all too easily imagine myself looking out to sea from on a Sunday afternoon. I had fancied, before the trip began, that when we stopped in Gambo, I would proudly announce it to my fellow passengers as the place where I was born. But having seen it, I kept this information to myself and turned sideways in my seat, staring crimson-faced out the window and trying not to imagine the Smallwood that might have been, standing out there, staring in wonderment and longing at the train.I saw from the windows of the train old men who I fancied had never travelled more than fifty miles from home, sitting side on to their windows, looking out. At the same time as I found the very sight of them oppressive and lived in horror of ending up that way myself -- which I was for some reason well able to imagine, me in there looking out, ambitionless, untravelled and uneducated, watching the water break on the rocks in a pattern of foam I had so often seen it was imprinted on my brain -- I envied them their apparent self-contentment and dilemma-less existence. For though their afflictions may have been many, irresolution and ambivalence were not among them. I did not begin to feel better until mid-afternoon, when we crossed the Exploits River into central Newfoundland and the sudden change in the landscape revived my spirits. We travelled through a leafless forest of blazing-white birch trees, tall, schooner-mast-sized trees that went on and on until I could stand to look at them no longer.I took out my map to see if I could fix exactly where we were. It struck me more forcefully than it ever had before that virtually the whole population lived on the coast, as if ready to abandon ship at a moment's notice. The shore was nothing but a place to fish from, a place to moor a boat and sleep between days spent on the sea. Of the land, the great tract of possibility that lay behind them, beyond their own backyards, over the farthest hill that they could see from the windows of their houses, most Newfoundlanders knew next to nothing. Just as I, who knew nothing about it, feared the sea, though I believed my ignorance and fear to be more justified than theirs. I knew of grown men who hurried home from trouting or berry-picking in a panic as the sun was going down, for fear of being caught out after dark and led astray by fairies. My mother had often told me stories of people from Gambo who, fairy-led, were found weeks later at the end of a trail of clothing that in their trance, they had discarded. They had been led in a dance by fairies until they flopped down dead from sheer exhaustion, my mother believed, and no appeal to common sense or any amount of scorn could change her mind. Yet these same fairy-feeble men would go out on the sea at night in the worst weather to rescue a neighbour whose boat was going down. Here was all this land and they had not claimed an inch of it as theirs, preferring instead to daily risk their lives, hauling fish up from a sea that never would be theirs, and to kill seals walking on ice that could not, like land, be controlled or tamed.I watched a group of loggers driving a large boom down the river, walking about with their pike-poles like the navigators of some massive raft. Even they preferred the water; they would rather ride the river than the train, though they acknowledged our whistle with a wave as we went by.The aboriginals were gone. There was no one on the river now, besides the loggers, except guide-led sport fishermen from places like New York and Boston, and not even any of them past a certain point, just the river, which someone had once followed far enough to guess where it was headed and put that guess like gospel on a map. But no one knew where the river went. They knew where it began and where it flowed into the sea; what happened to it in between no one still alive could say.We reached the town of Badger, where, in the one major departure from the route the highway would take years later, we kept on heading west through what, for the men who built the railway, must have been the most difficult stretch. There were so many hills the engineers had had no choice but to go straight through them. The train wound its way through cuts of rock so sheer and high you could not see the tops of them. Down the face of the rock ran little, spring-fed streams that sparkled in the sun, unseen except for the few minutes when the train was passing by.There were rickety, gorge-spanning trestles, the gorges only thirty or forty feet wide but hundreds of feet deep. And there were ponds, lakes. When the train curved round some pond, I could see its whole length from my window. It began to rain, a sun-shower, and soon the stretch of rails ahead was gleaming, as was the rainwashed locomotive. I saw the conductor, the seamed, soot-blackened faces of the engineer and fireman and the smoke blown back mane-like above the cars. I saw other passengers in other cars unaware that I was watching them, and I felt as the people we passed along the tracks must have felt and saw myself as they must have, as impossibly remote from them as I was to the lives I had left behind and was headed towards, caught up in the dream of travel, the travel-trance that overtakes you when there are no familiar landmarks to remind you you are making progress, when it seems you have no destination and the landscape you are moving through goes on forever.All along the line, every mile or so, were little shacks in which the section-men and their families lived what must have been strange and solitary lives. I saw the wives of section-men standing in their doorways watching as the train, the reason they lived where they did, fifty miles from the nearest town, moved past. I saw them standing with their children in their arms while their older children abandoned the tracks they played on to let the apparition of the train go by.This is not an island, I told myself, but a landlocked country in the middle of an otherwise empty continent, a country hemmed in and cored by wilderness, and it is through this core that we are passing now, the unfoundland that will make us great someday.It seemed strange to think that some of my fellow passengers were heading home, but some were; they had a different look about them, that half-resigned, half-expectant look of people soon to see familiar sights, familiar faces, the circumscribed geography of home. I did not want to think that anyone was heading home, or that the train was moving for any purpose but to take me, and only me, where I was going.Sometime in the afternoon, I dozed off and did not wake up until we were approaching the Gaff Topsails, a steep-sloped tract of wilderness, the highest point on the line and the place where delays were most likely in the winter when the tracks were blocked by snow. The train went slowly upgrade for a hundred suspenseful miles, the passengers urging it on, knowing that if we stalled, we might be stranded there for days. We laughed and rocked forward and backward in our seats as if to coax the locomotive one more inch until, when we felt it make the crest, a great cheer went up and it seemed we were leaving home in earnest now, though one-third of our journey still remained. Though I had vowed not to, I fell asleep again and awoke at dusk to see what appeared to be some kind of snow-plain, flatter even than the barrens, with only the occasional train-borne and bleary-eyed observer to confirm that it was real. It was not until I saw that the stumps of trees, dead two hundred years and petrified by age, formed a kind of barricade around it that I realized it was a frozen lake that we were passing, Deer Lake, the first I had ever set eyes on that was so wide you could not see the other side.When it was very late and the car was dark and almost empty and most of those still in it were asleep, I looked out the window at what, at that hour, I could see of Newfoundland: dark shapes of hills and trees; a glimpse, when the moon was out, of distant placid ponds; small, unaccountably located towns a hundred miles apart, nothing more than clumps of houses really, all with their porch lights on but otherwise unlit, occupied by people who, though it passed by every night, rarely saw or even heard the train.From Stephenville Crossing, we followed the Long Range Mountains southwest to Corner Brook, going downstream along the black, cliff-channelled Humber River. Sometime early in the morning, I fell asleep again and did not awake until the sun was up. Someone said we were thirty miles from Port aux Basques. I had stayed in the smoking car all night and not even made it to my complimentary berth, though in my Telegram article, I extolled its comfort and convenience as if I had not budged from it from St. John's to Port aux Basques.We were to cross the gulf by night and reach Cape Breton early in the morning.I had intended to stand at the railing of the ship until I could no longer see the island. It seemed like the appropriately romantic thing to do. I wished Fielding had come with me, though I knew she would have made some deflating remark that would have dispelled my mood. I was pleased to discover, after about fifteen minutes, that all the other passengers had fled the cold and gone inside. I pulled up the hood of my raincoat and imagined what I must look like from in there, a lone hooded figure at the railing. But though I stood staring at it for what seemed like hours, the island got no smaller. After a while, all but blue with cold, I went inside. And each time I went back out to see how much progress we had made, we seemed to have made none at all. The dark shape of the island was always there, as big as ever, as if we were towing it behind us. I settled for standing at the window, looking out. When I saw the lights along the southwest coast, I thought of the fishermen's broadcast that I used to listen to on the radio when I lived at home. It always concluded with an island-wide temperature round-up. Every evening, there was the same cold-shiver-inducing litany of place-names: Burgeo, Fortune, Funk Island, Hermitage. I imagined myself looking out to sea at night from the window of a house in Hermitage. Hermitage. I wondered what lonely fog-bound soul had named it. It occurred to me that as Hermitage seemed to me now, so might Newfoundland seem from New York six months from now, an inconceivably backward and isolated place, my attraction to which I could neither account for nor resist. The whole island was a hermitage. 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. My father had left and come back, physically at least. In the lounges, people sat listening to the radio until, about twenty miles out, the sound began to fade. There were groans of protest, but people kept listening as long as they could hear the faintest hint of sound through the static. Finally, when the signal vanished altogether, there was a change in mood among the passengers, as if we were truly under way, as if our severance from land was now complete. The radio was left on, though, eerily blaring static as though it were some sort of sea sound.

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?

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 is vivid and sharp."—E. Annie Proulx, author of The Shipping News"A classic historical novel... deeply felt and powerfully imagined [that] will make a permanent mark on our literature."—The Toronto Star, Choice for Best Book of 1998