The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
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The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  3,056 ratings  ·  184 reviews
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 fi...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published May 2nd 2000 by Anchor (first published 1998)
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Seemed a bit derivative of Howard Norman (Sheilagh Fielding is a close sister to Margaret Handle in The Bird Artist, which was published a few years earlier). Although the writing is good—the author excels at description and character develpment—the story somehow doesn’t seem to justify the length (500-plus pages). That said, the interwoven pages from Fielding’s history of Newfoundland are an interesting device. Without them, there’d be less of a sense of place, which is essential for the story....more
Gail Amendt
The best work of historical fiction I have read in a long time. Based on history - that of Newfoundland's entry into Confederation and the architect of that event - Newfoundland's first premier, Joey Smallwood, this is still very much a work of fiction. I'm not sure how much of the Smallwood we read about is real, but he is certainly an engaging, complex and well developed character. His longtime friend/love/nemesis, Sheilagh Fielding is one of my favorite female characters of all time and I'm s...more
John Hanson
I'm reviewing this novel with much trepidation and caution. My copy is signed by Mr. Johnston who I met at a reading this past November for his latest novel. He's a nice man and a great reader. He could be a stand-up comic, very dry, very patient with his story telling, and has a very good understanding of story at that. My caution comes from my own writing about Newfoundland, and I have to be very cautious for I am a Mainlander, not a native son.

I have a sense of what Newfoundland is about. I'...more
Badly Drawn Girl

The history of Newfoundland is not a subject I would ever think I would enjoy learning about. This brilliantly written book manages to sum up the history of that island in a truly fascinating way. I never felt like this book was dragging, even though it is very large and stuffed to the brim with information, facts, and observations. By following the life of the future first premier of the country, Wayne Johnston reels his readers in. Joe Smallwood is like the little engine that could, he just ke...more
While reading The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, and especially upon finishing it, I needed to know just how historically accurate the narrative was -- the Joey Smallwood of the book fit more or less with the bits I know about the actual first Premier of Newfoundland, but if the acid-penned, hilariously ironic Sheilagh Fielding did exist, I wanted to learn more about her. A google search led to this essay by the author, Wayne Johnston, and the following revelation:

The Colony of Unrequited Dream
Carol Waters
I've never been to Newfoundland, couldn't find it on a map. I'm half-way through this huge book and have no desire whatsoever to go there. I have no clue how this tome ended up in my bookcase. It must weigh six pounds. It took up a lot of space so I decided to read it to clear the shelf.

Fabulous, fabulous. I want to be Fielding. I want to buy boots for Joe. I want to vote two or three times in some local election. The bitterness of their lives is buried under hope, love, loyalty, confusion, dedi...more
Paula Dembeck
There are two main plot lines in this grand historical fiction: one is the wacky lifelong relationship between two friends - Joey Smallwood and Sheilagh Fielding; the second is the story of Newfoundland's slow and awkward march towards Confederation with Canada after years of mistreatment by the British.

Newfoundland is a cold, barren and challenging land with few resources, populated by a warm and friendly people who despite the odds did their best over the years to eek out a living from its po...more
Apr 03, 2013 Brian added it
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-perso...more
This title fit the book very well.

I enjoyed the characters very much and felt that Fielding was essential to the story. I loved the layers of irony and the demonstrations of things simply stated. Eg. Smallwood said he was not a good father or husband and then throughout the book you realize how little the wife and children play a part its incredibly demonstrative of how poor he is at those roles.

One of the highlights of the novel is a series of brief interpolated chapters under the rubric of "Fi...more
I loved Wayne Johnston's "The Navigator of New York", but when I read that this book was about Joey Smallwood the first Premier of Newfoundland, I thought I'd pass. Sounded very dry. Years have passed and he wrote a sequel, "The Custodian of Paradise". Curiousity made me read "The Colony of Unrequited Dreams". Glad I did. It was great, an enjoyable read. It is written in the voice of Joey Smallwood himself. It involves a childhood mystery, a hidden truth, misunderstandings--politics only a backd...more
I remember really enjoying this book because the curriculum in high school did not have Newfoundland Labrador Studies course when I went there and thus I did not know anything about him except that Smallwood was either a monster or a hero. This book is historical fiction in that it's representative of true events but with a fictionalized spin, one that Johnston is known for, and making his story accessible and readable by a large audience.
This story of the history of Newfoundland...a political, historical view through the life of the first premier of Newfoundland, from his early life, through perils of living in Newfoundland and New York in dire poverty, but with a satirical flair. Also alongside is a short, very funny history of the country by the protagonist's love interest, a very compelling character. I think I learned a lot about Newfoundland.
Sue Tincher
I didn't care too much for this book. So cynical, and hard to care about the main characters. The fact that the narrator is a real historical figure, and that he is portrayed rather negatively (selfish, bad husband and father, vain and self-serving), leaves me wondering if he was really that bad or if the author is painting this poor dead man in a worse light than is warranted.
Nov 21, 2008 Stacie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Stacie by: DPL catalog
I got on this kick that I love reading world literature and learning about other cultures, but I know very little about our neighbors to the north. After doing a search at my local library for Canadian literature I stumbled upon this book, which received pretty decent reviews. What I found was an enthralling and incredible tale, and this soon became one of my favorites.
This story of Joey, Fielding and Newfoundland confirms my love for the novels of Wayne Johnston.It amazed me how this novel tied in with the history depicted in "Don't Tell The Newfoundlanders". So much of Joey's life seemed like creative fiction and the author makes it seems so, but he still grounds it in the history of the unique time and place.
ellen middlebrook herron
This book started a bit slowly for me, but I'm glad I stuck with it. Johnston cleverly intertwines historical documents and the history of Newfoundland with a compelling story centered on two very quirky characters. I found myself laughing out loud frequently and thoroughly enjoyed the read.
Carolyn Stevens Shank
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is a tragi-comic epic set in beautiful, but unforgiving, landscape of Newfoundland. It is the story of two bright, ambitious, childhood rivals, Joel Smallwood and Sheilalgh Feilding, who through their careers, maintain a competitive relationship and an unspoken, unconventional, romance, recognized too late. Smallwood claws his way from poverty to become Newfoundland's first premier; Feilding becomes a noted political satirist, with Smallwood as her subject. Throu...more
Ron Charles
As Hollywood forgot long ago, romance, terror, and wit are produced by restraint, not excess. What better place to test that rule than Newfoundland, whose ferocious weather inspires a great deal of restraint, indeed. The setting for Wayne Johnston's spectacular new novel, "The Colony of Unrequited Dreams," sometimes slows love and hate to glacial speed, but that only emphasizes the land's awesome power.

Johnston's epic tells the fictionalized life of Newfoundland's first premier, Joe Smallwood. B...more
Mary Jo
I provided a review in mistake..wrong Johnston book. But I anticipate enjoying it since his other works drew me in so completely.
I'd been looking for this book for almost year since a friend recommended it. When I finally started reading it, it was on a chilly day after work, with three blankets and the beginnings of a prodigious flu attack. So I don't know if it was the fever but I knew I was going to like this book when I burst into tears a few pages in, on reading Fielding's gorgeous and heartbreaking description of old Newfoundland:

"After it rained, the schooners would unfurl their sails to let them dry, a stationary...more
Started this book many years ago and didn't finish it. However, finally got there and it was worth the read. Joey Smallwood was a fascinating figure in Canadian History one I'm sure many children in school nowadays know nothing about, and as such his life deserves reviewing. Told from the perspective of Joey himself for the most part, this book takes you through his childhood, his struggles towards adulthood and his monumental failures for the better part of his life, until he manages to bring N...more
In The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Wayne Johnston pays homage to his native province by guiding readers through the wild history of Newfoundland, Canada’s 10th province.

The novel is written mostly through the perspective of Joey Smallwood, Newfoundland’s first Premier. We first meet Smallwood and his family as they grow up amongst fisherman and working class poor on the rough streets of St. John’s, Newfoundland. The Smallwood family owned a successful boot making company, and Joey has an overw...more
Charles Henri
This book was highly recommended to me so I started with high expectations. But no matter how hard I tried, I could never really get into it. I should have abandoned it after a while but I kept reading through it, which took me a while to end it.

It's not that it is a bad book or anything. It is well written with great vocabulary. But it's the whole tone to it... I felt like the author wanted to write about Newfoundland itself and the book was just a pretence to get to do that. Half formal histo...more
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston

Wayne Johnston is a wonderful writer. I read "The Navigator Of New York" a few years ago and found the same excellent reading this time. These books aren't the sort you just have to keep reading to see what happens next. I had no problem setting this one aside to read our Book Club selection then picking it up where I had left off. That doesn't sound like much of a recommendation but a sizzling plot isn't everything. These books have good stories...more
Jun 19, 2008 C rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like books about Newfoundland
Shelves: fiction
I liked this book, but I didn't love it. I found it really long. I was sucked in from the beginning with Smallwood's hard luck story and burned through the first 300 or so pages, however once the book got into his mid-life I started to lose interest. I could understand why he wanted to do something great in life, but after his efforts to bring Newfoundland into confederacy with Canada are successful he really falls off as a likable character to me. He's consumed with accomplishing something that...more
The book starts with a bang but ends not even with a whimper.

The early years of Joey Smallwood are well imagined; he is a real person. Once he gets married and devotes his life to socialist utopia for Newfoundland, the story falls apart. He becomes a stiff historical figure and his story loses its dramatic tension as it is engulfed in regional and federal politics. His imaginary love affair with the odd Ms Fielding is thoroughly unconvincing.

Historical fiction is one of the hardest genres to wr...more
Tina Siegel
This should have been a fabulous book. And parts of it were - mostly the language. I think Wayne Johnston did a wonderful job of evoking the tone and timbre of the time he's writing about. He also has a remarkable job of creating his two main characters - both Smallwood and Fielding are quirky and smart and a little irritating, with very distinct voices.

Actually, I did love Fielding. She's feisty. Unfortunately, the story focuses on Smallwood, who (as thoroughly imagined as he is) feels pedanti...more
Ted Dettweiler
This is more toward historical fiction than biography, but Wayne Johnston does a satisfying job of creating a somewhat fictional life of Joey Smallwood with the bulk of the book concentrating on the years before Smallwood becomes Newfoundland's first premier.

The made up character of Fielding is even more interesting than Smallwood, I think, although I probably wouldn't say that until almost the end of the book. Before that we have an incomplete account of her life - the reasons become obvious in...more
Alex Tu
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This novel is the set against Newfoundland’s struggle for/against confederation with Canada told through the eyes of Joey Smallwood, Newfoundland’s leader. Wayne Johnston is one of my favorite writers who is, himself, a Newfoundlander. This is an astonishingly good read….rich and complex. At all times satisfying.
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“I exhausted myself trying to take it all in, noting every little variation and departure from how things were supposed to be. My notion of home and everything in it as ideal, archetypal, was being overthrown. It was as though the definitions of all the words in my vocabulary were expanding at once.

Cape Breton was much like Newfoundland, yet everything seemed slightly off. Light, colours, surface textures, dimensions – objects like telegraph poles, fence posts, mail boxes, which you would think would be the same everywhere, were bigger or smaller or wider by a hair than they were back home. That I was able to detect such subtle differences made me realize how circumscribed my life had been, how little of the world I had seen.”
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