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Minister Without Portfolio

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3.11  ·  Rating details ·  964 ratings  ·  165 reviews
Henry Hayward is a drowning man. With a soured long-term romance finally at an end, no family, and no refuge to be had in work, he progressively spends his days in the solace of alcohol and his nights with a series of interchangeable partners. In a quest to simultaneously recover from unrequited love and to find meaning in what is becoming an increasingly emotionally arid ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by Hamish Hamilton
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Average rating 3.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  964 ratings  ·  165 reviews


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Jim Puskas
Apr 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: politics, humor
Sorry, Mr. Winter but your sloppy writing just doesn't cut it. You may have had a story to tell -- certainly the central premise of a civilian contractor getting in the middle of a fatal attack in Afghanistan is timely enough; and that, combined with a man disappointed in love finding a new reason to go on could have developed into a compelling narrative. Your settings also had great promise: the austere beauty of Newfoundland, the unhealthy, dangerous environment of Afghanistan, the gritty, non ...more
Matthew Quann
Jan 20, 2016 rated it did not like it
CANADA READS 2016 FINALIST

Man, what an absolute drag of a read.

Minister Without Portfolio's two parts could be easily summarized in two quick sentences. Part 1: Henry gets dumped, goes to Afghanistan, is traumatized, goes out West to work, but has to come back to Newfoundland. Part 2: Henry's got a house to build, a relationship to sort out and has to meet the b'ys from around the bay. After the quick clip of the first 30 pages, Minister Without Portfolio becomes a decompressed read that was an
...more
Krista
Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Let's not be Americans, Tender said. Let's be outlaws. Except for Henry -- he's our minister without portfolio.

What the hell is that.

You're not committed to anything but you got a hand in everywhere.

Henry accepted this.

From the first page of Minister Without Portfolio, I had to wonder if Michael Winter is in a writer's group with fellow Newfies Lisa Moore and Jessica Grant (and I have no reason yet to believe he isn't) since they seem to share some literary quirks -- lack of quotation marks,
...more
Doctordalek
Jan 23, 2016 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: masochists
Shelves: canadareads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
JenniferD
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-books, canadian
right upfront, i should probably acknowledge that i have a complete soft spot for literature about newfoundland, and for newfoundland writers. and i fairly adore michael winter. happily, this novel was a great read for me.

minister without portfolio, among many things, presents an intriguing concept: each of us has an orbit of 100 people, people to whom we have responsibilities.

when we first meet henry hayward, his life is not going well. and as the story continues, woes pile upon woes. as haywa
...more
Lori Bamber
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful way to finish my reading year. There are so many lines in this book that just stopped me in my tracks - made me stop reading to marvel: "Yes, that is exactly how it is." Clarity that almost hurts.

It's a book about many things, but it's mostly about a person growing up and learning to live in a world that is often hard and mean. And the way he grows up is by stepping into his responsibilities toward other people, tripping and falling, making horrendous mistakes, and then learning
...more
Erika
Jan 22, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: canada-reads, 2016
I read the first 70 pages then skimmed the middle of the book and read the end. There is no dialogue, just spoken sentences amongst the rest of the prose. The main event happens on page 45 and then it's just characters searching for redemption, being unfaithful, and fixing a house. Not my style of book at all. Plus there are short choppy sentences that don't seem to make sense or move the story forward. None of the characters were appealing. It just all felt flat.

Not a Canada Reads winner in my
...more
Heather(Gibby)
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bingo-2017
This book has had mixed reviews, and was the first book eliminated in the 2016 Canada Reads debates. I had mixed feelings about it as I was reading it. Certainly Henry had some bad breaks in life, but he never seems to just take the bull by the horn and get on with life. I could not get into the mood of the book, in which I guessed the author had wanted to create empathy for Henry's lot in life. Despite the rather unsympathetic protagonist, the writing has at times a very lyrical quality, so it ...more
Kelly
Dec 15, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaway-winners
I won this book and as such, I feel obligated to review it. I need to first clarify that as I am not Canadian and incredibly unfamiliar with Canadian military and Newfoundland, I'm sure there were many things I simply culturally couldn't grasp or picture in my mind.
However, I think I could have overcome all of that, if the author could have made me care about a single character or relationship in the book. Nothing feels real, things are vague, there are no quotation marks (sometimes, this is OK
...more
Steven Langdon
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: super
Henry Hayward is a hard-working man reflecting, in Michael Winter's first-rate novel, many of the characteristics of modern Newfoundland -- he works in the offshore oilfields, relies on his buddies, loves a party and sometimes drinks too much. But he is also aware of deeper dimensions of life and this book is an often profound and moving story of how Henry reorders his world.

The novel is also a hard-edged portrait of Canada's participation in the war in Afghanistan -- where Henry takes on milit
...more
Lauren
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this novel by Michael Winter on life and love and moving on. Little slice of life that is oh so familiar for Atlantic Canadians. Reminded me of Lisa Moore's style of writing. ...more
Steven Buechler
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Every once in a while there is a book whose story deals with a place just outside of the periphery of the reader's vision. The narrative is so engrossing that one gets wrapped up in the story because the character is so much like us and maybe we can learn something from that person's actions. All other items in our lives seem to become intrusions until we finish the story. Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter is such a book.

Chapter 1
She told him there wasn't another person. Henry watched
...more
Dsinglet
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I wavered on rating this book because my reaction was mixed. Probably 3 1/2 stars would be more accurate. What I liked was reading a story from contemporary Newfoundland, I have read much of historic times but nothing closer than Joey Smallwood to the present. Michael showed a vibrant culture of people who have learned to survive in all kinds of ways- some legal some not, many by working away and coming back home when they can. Our hero is on a journey of recovery from losing a friend in Afghani ...more
Dorothy
Jan 05, 2014 rated it liked it
This is the first book I have read by this author and it came to my attention when I went to an author reading which included this writer and also Joseph Boyden whose work I very much admire. I am less impressed with Michael Winter's work, largely because I found the prose style very choppy and distracting. I will now go on my usual rant about authors who disregard the basic rules of punctuation. Winter sometimes uses punctuation in the regular manner but then we get long sections where punctua ...more
Vanessa
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's been over a year since I read this book and it still hasn't let me go. I have never been so changed, or challenged, by a novel. It's a quiet and subtle thing. Don't expect fireworks, or loud obnoxious themes. Understatement is at the heart of this book, a deep exploration of self and what to do with the life you're given. An Odyssey, where the only place Henry goes is home and the journey takes place deep within his very being. It's left me with a desire to read more by Michael Winter. ...more
Paula Dembeck
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In the opening chapters readers meet Henry Haywood, a young man who is still reeling from the breakup of his long term relationship with Nora. After she kicked him out, he tried for an embarrassing three months to get her to change her mind but she had no interest in resuming the relationship and he knew he had to move on. He felt adrift but vowed to get his life back together and in an effort to distance himself from his pain, signed up to work with his buddy John Haynes as a civilian contracto ...more
Lynda
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received the advance copy of this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. I had never heard of the author before and I was pleasantly surprised by his writing. The book flowed at a constant pace with descriptive details with the right amount of wording. Short, easy to read chapters made it a pleasure to read. Details of scenic views of life in Kabul, the refugee camp, Lake Qargha's beauty and everyday occurrences added texture to the story. Interesting pieces of how to shape a beret, boot ...more
Christine
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book started out with the main character, Henry, being quite despondent over the breakup of his relationship. He became a wreck, and turned to alcohol to drown his sorrows. His friends helped him get a work gig in Afghanistan to get away from everything. During his time there, his friend Tender is killed, and Henry feels that he is responsible. He then went to Alberta to take another job, and there is another accident where Henry's co-worker is hurt. Henry decides to return home feeling tha ...more
Kate
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
The protagonist's story in "Minister Without Portfolio" is largely defined by the tragic death of a soldier-friend in Afghanistan, itself the result of an attack he witnessed all the bloody details of and the consequences for which he felt himself partly to blame. Henry, the protagonist, had gone there for work and a change after a painful break-up, not as a soldier and never expecting to come face-to-face with death.

Most of the characters in this book have known each other since childhood, and
...more
Corinne Wasilewski
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book didn’t live up to its potential. Winter does a great job capturing the complex relationships that underpin rural life, but, in other respects the book disappoints. It lacks direction (not unlike the main character, Henry Hayward, who is sometimes described as a Minister Without Portfolio), has sloppy writing and unorthodox word choices. I mean isn’t this sentence a little odd -- Henry and Martha climbed down this hill with their bathing products. -- Bathing products? Really? What is th ...more
Rick
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Henry Hayward is the minister without portfolio. All his friends seem to have a role to play; soldier, father, construction foreman. Henry drifts from role to role with no portfolio and he starts to feel that he needs something of his own. The weird thing about Henry is that he doesn't develop his own thing, rather he takes ownership of what others have done or have given him. I love this book because in the story telling Winter captures Newfoundland and the Newfoundlander ways. They have a way ...more
Kate
May 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school, can-lit
Whiny narrator. Boring plot. Lack of quotation marks (why, do you think you're Joyce or something?).

I picked up Minister Without Portfolio because it made the short list for Canada Reads 2015(16?). My Can-Lit professor suggested to follow the event and read one of the books, this was the one I picked. Unfortunately I bought the book before I watched the event, and saw it was the first novel voted out. I understand why. I don't know what makes this book so special and nominated for all these Can
...more
Chandni
I was unable to finish this book. I gave up reading pretty soon because the writing style was terrible. I couldn’t get past how frustrating it was to read and understand. The whole book is written stream of consciousness style, which makes it very distracting to the plot and I found it very difficult to follow the story. There are no quotation marks around the dialogue either, which is another frustrating aspect to this book. I found this book boring, and I abandoned it because I realized I didn ...more
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
Minister Without Portfolio was part of Canada Reads 2016, "Starting Over". I struggled with Henry to be honest. His character was a distant and cold one for me - I associated him and his behaviour with a kind of "throw your hands up and walk away" every time things went wrong for him, rather than an attempt to embrace starting over. He wallowed in self pity I suppose. And maybe it's the way MWP is written, but I can't truly say that since I didn't have a problem with Winter's style of short, cli ...more
Sandra
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway and was overjoyed to read this latest book by Newfoundland author Michael Winter.

This is a book that personifies Newfoundland. The love of the landscape and the importance of family and friends shines through Winter's lovely prose. While working as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan, Henry Hayward is characterized by his friend as a minister without portfolio because he is not committed to anything, but has a hand in everything. Henry proves his fri
...more
Caralyn Rubli
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: giveaway
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. I like reading a book about Canadians written by a Canadian. I was a little lost and confused for the first few chapters, but once I got the rhythm, things got moving along just fine. It's a look into one mans world and the decisions he is faced with, and dealing with the past while getting on with the present and future. I want to know more! Very good! I recommend this book! ...more
David
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian
Wow. I’d not read Winter before but his writing is dazzling – it has a kind of elemental beauty and grace with almost every sentence containing an insight or truth that stops you in your tracks. Likely to be one of my favourite books of the year I should think.
Mila
Jan 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
Poor writing, boring story. I only read it because it was on the Canada Reads list. I can't believe it was on the list. I was happy to see it was the first to be eliminated. ...more
Teresa
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it
This one grew on me from about the half way point and continued to get better toward the end. I definitely had trouble in the beginning though at at various points later. 3.5.
Sylvia Valevicius
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Here's a novel that breaks a few 'rules' and a lovely surprise at that. First, don't judge a book by its title! Or at least don't take that title literally. I chose to purchase this novel some years back because it was on the 'Canada Reads' list, so I figured it must be good. Well, I was right on that count! But judging by the title I imagined it would be parliamentary and although I was not opposed to reading something political, for me, this novel just didn't make it to the top of the pile of ...more
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Author of five books: The Architects Are Here, The Big Why, This All Happened, One Last Good Look, Creaking in their Skins. His novel, The Death of Donna Whalen, is slated for publication in 2010.

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