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First Snow, Last Light

(Newfoundland Trilogy #3)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  775 ratings  ·  124 reviews
In the last of the trilogy of Newfoundland novels that began with the critically acclaimed, prizewinning and internationally bestselling The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Wayne Johnston brings us an epic family mystery told in two voices: that of Ned Vatcher, the first Newfoundland media mogul, and the ever-fascinating Sheilagh Fielding.

Ned Vatcher, only 14, ambles home
...more
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Knopf Canada
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John Hanson No. This is a standalone story, and the author fills in the few gaps.…moreNo. This is a standalone story, and the author fills in the few gaps. (less)

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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Esil
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
3+ stars. There's so much I like in Wayne Johnston's novels, but First Snow, Last Light didn't quite come together for me. Johnston is a Newfoundland writer, and he writes about that province with so much love and humour and a touch of melancholy. He creates brilliant characters, fearlessly takes on morally fraught topics and writes beautifully. But First Snow, Last Light felt like too big a serving of all that's good about Johnston's writing. Set between the 1930s and 1960s, the story mostly ...more
Krista
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it
As Nan Finn said of people who went missing in the woods at twilight, they had been led astray, not by fairies but by snow when there should have been no snow, a rogue blizzard when winter was a month away, led astray by the pale, bewitching light of late November, the lulling light of sunset in the fall.

First Snow, Last Light is the third volume in Wayne Johnston's Newfoundland Trilogy, and having now read all three, I get the feeling that this series wasn't pre-planned as such from the
...more
Diane
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
We begin with a 14 year old boy, Ned Vatcher, who comes home from school to discover his parents are gone. They've disappeared without a word on the day of the first snow storm of the winter, in St. John's, Newfoundland, November 1936, leaving him behind. Ned has come home from school to an empty house and a mystery. He runs to his sports coach from school, Father Duggan and ends up with his father's family, a family of fishermen who have already lost one son to the sea. He grows up to make a ...more
Andrea
A brilliant story,familiar characters that resonate with the heart and mind.I was drawn into the lives of every single character that was written about in the pages of this book. I was stunned by many revelations and the ultimate twist in this tale of families, secrets and lies told for what those who told them believed was a good reason. I wept for the ones who were left behind to pick up the pieces. Wayne Johnston is a brilliant writer whose work is beautifully crafted and touches a cord in ...more
David
Apr 16, 2018 added it
Shelves: new-in-2018
It didn’t work for me. First Snow, Last Light, opens in the second-person, present-tense voice. Lost me there. Shifts into multiple first-person voices. Marginally better. Fielding appears first in her column. Some magnificent descriptive passages of the Newfoundland landscape. Otherwise, basically treading water. I like Fielding, and I find the narrative is livelier when she is near the centre of it. And there is some satisfaction in the ‘comeuppance’ department for at least one figure who has ...more
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
I read First Snow, Last Light first, and perhaps should have read The Custodian of Paradise before it, (I do own that one too) but, I don't think my not reading it suffered the story in First Snow, Last Light. It would definitely have provided more of the past/ background story for Shelaigh Fielding since she was a major character in First Snow and is the focus in Custodian.

Both Ned and Fielding are chasing and haunted by ghosts in this story. Ned is left alone at 14 when his parents vanish
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Jessica
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
WARNING: Minor spoilers are afoot.

In his saga of page-turners known as the Newfoundland Trilogy, Wayne Johnston has given his readers a truly gripping protagonist in the character of Sheilagh Fielding. A columnist with an emotionally tense past, readers instantly fall under her spell in The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, prompting them to continue reading her life story in The Custodian of Paradise. Ultimately, everyone who picks up one of Johnston’s novels will love Fielding for her honesty –
...more
Christina McLain
Nov 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I had some very mixed feelings about this book. I didn't realize it was the last of a trilogy so maybe reading all three books would have made a difference to me in understanding and liking the story. Full disclosure-- I am not a Newfoundlander but I am from Down East, as they so quaintly put it in Ontario where I now live, so I get it, I really do. The Maritime provinces are, in many ways, the colonies of unrequited dreams, and they reverberate in our hearts and minds in the same way as the ...more
Dianne Everson
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is not the best of Wayne Johnston books, but it has the allure of Newfoundland and compelling characters to keep you reading.
Dark, almost gothic in tone, it tells the story of of one family in all its glory and madness.
It is a tragedy in most ways, softened by family love and carved out of family hate.
Engrossing, but as cold and hard in many ways as its province.
Feilding is the most memorable character, Duggan the least. Ned the pivot around which the plot revolves. It is a mystery of
...more
Janice
I had high expectations for this book, and I was disappointed. Had it not been for a strong ending, I would have trashed this book. Had it not been for The Syndicate Book Club, I wouldn't have finished the book and would have missed the strong ending.

There wasn't one character that really drew me in except perhaps for Sheilagh. They were all flawed and unlikeable. Generally, that doesn't bother me and is not a deal breaker for my enjoyment of a book.

I had thought that the story would be more of
...more
Nancy Croth
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I am giving this book a 4 star even though I think that Johnston over-wrote it. There was a period in the middle when I thought I was going to bail but I am glad I kept at it. Good character development allowed me to empathize with many of the characters.
I love how he describes the landscape of Newfoundland! In the same manner as Colony of Unrequited Dream, he captures the wild, rugged, almost unforgiving beauty and power of the landscape. In much the same way, he depicts the hardiness and
...more
Janet Wallace
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I gave up on it. I read a bit, put it down and read another novel. Picked it up and tried again for another few evenings and then put it down for good. I've enjoyed many of Johnston's books but not this one -- partially because it seemed too familiar but without the draw of his other books. The tension between Fielding and Prowse and the stories about the high school drama just seemed tired. I would rather re-read a The Colony of Unrequited Dreams or many of his earlier books than continue with ...more
Sharon
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
A real page turner from page one! A mystery that illuminates the history of Newfoundland.
Tess
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5 stars
Margie O'Connor
Great story. A mystery unfolding so could not wait for the end in a good way. Was great to catch up with characters from previous WJ novels.
Janet Trull
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
It seems ages ago that I read Colony of Unrequited Dreams, the story of Joey Smallwood and Newfoundland's unique political history. Sheilagh Fielding was the savvy journalist who called out the misogynists and cronyism and and corrupt decision-making. In First Snow, Last Light, Sheilagh's back. With scraggly long grey hair and an alcohol addiction, she isolates herself by living in a room at a run down hotel, among the ragged people. She develops a strange relationship with Ned Vatcher, the ...more
Sheila Craig
This one just didn’t do it for me. I think I enjoyed The Colony of Unrequited Dreams because it was fiction rooted with an actual historical figure and real historical events. While I was delighted to take up again with the wonderful Sheilagh Fielding, I felt that Ned, the main viewpoint character, was rather unapproachable. The entire novel revolves around solving the mystery of the disappearance of Ned’s parents. It just took too long to get there, and the resolution was too convoluted and ...more
Doreen
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Fourteen-year-old Ned Vatcher returns home from school one day in 1936 to discover that his parents, Edgar and Megan, have disappeared. Though he has to live with his paternal grandparents, Nan Finn and Reg, it is Father Duggan, a Jesuit priest, and Sheilagh Fielding, a friend of his parents, who become his most stalwart supporters. Cyril, Edgar’s brother, also remains an important character in Ned’s life, though not always in a positive way. Various points of view are provided, but the focus is ...more
Joanne
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: canada
I enjoyed this novel but it simply went on too long. After over 300 pages of Ned's relentless drinking and obsessive searching for the story of his parents' disappearance, I didn't care anymore. I skipped to the last 50 pages, found out what happened and that was enough.
Donna Wellard
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Memorable characters in a mighty fine novel. Couldn’t put it down.
Karen Bahal
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am a first time reader of Wayne Johnston and proud to say after reading First Snow, Last light it will not be the last. It was extremely hard for me to put the book down. His description of person, place and events are so detailed that the reader would feel they side by side experiencing everything the characters are feeling in real time.

The story evolves around many characters but links to the main protagonist Ned. He comes home one day from school to find his parents missing. This event
...more
Ronald Kelland
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I quite enjoyed this book. It hit me on a bit of a personal level as well. I did my thesis on the governments of Newfoundland Prime Minister Sir Richard Squires, so having him play a big role in this novel was great fun. I have heard anecdotes of Squires' missing papers, notably most of his diary, so there may be an elements of truth to that plot line, although I am sure not nearly so dramatic as events unfold in this book. I also had an uncle who was born very late in the evening on March 31, ...more
Marina L Reed
Nov 12, 2018 rated it liked it
As always, I want to congratulate the author on creating a story that lives inside these pages. There are some beautiful moments where characters step off the page. Fielding is by far the most developed and interesting characters, with a beginning a middle and an end. In many ways, the book is about her, although it's not really. She is a powerful character and written so well. I believed her voice, her pain, her progression. And I came to know Newfoundland a bit better at the time of its ...more
Steven Langdon
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have enjoyed various previous books by this author, and found this novel both engaging and nicely linked to several earlier books.

Newfoundland is usually the focus of Johnston's writing, and that is the case this time, too. But it is a different more affluent slice of the society that is explored, and the novel is built around a puzzling mystery story. Ned Vacher, a fourteen year old boy, returns from school one day, expecting as usual to meet his doting mother at the front door -- but instead
...more
John
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
If I could rate this with a half star I would have given it 4 and 1/2 stars. Like the other two Wayne Johnston books I've read (Son of a Certain Woman and Custodian of Paradise) I really liked First Snow, Last Light. There is a dark undertone to this one just as with his others, but also some great humour, even in some pretty bleak scenes. Fielding is her usual cantankerous self and often the source of much of the dark humour. Wayne Johnston gives you an inside look at Newfoundland and the St. ...more
Jane
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
The strange, almost hillbilly-esque Vatcher family dominates this, the third of Johnston's interconnected volumes set in St. John's, Newfoundland. At age 9 Ned Vatcher arrives home to find his house cold and empty, his parents mysteriously gone. A Jesuit priest named Duggan steps in to stay with Ned for a few weeks while there's still hope that his parents will return. Sheilagh Fielding, last seen in The Custodian of Paradise, is there too. She was friends with Ned's parents, with his father at ...more
Brian
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I feel a little cheap denying First Snow a fifth star. The Newfoundland "voice" is faint, but there and that in itself is worth a firmament in full bloom. The novel is certainly a novel; there are fictional arcs all over the place, most of them successful in hitting the target of creating suspense. Maybe a few were off dead centre or stretched this reader's plausibility metric, and it's hard to imagine Fielding not raising an eyebrow, at least, or a poke with her cane. I was able to keep track ...more
Barbara Wambolt
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh my goodness. The first thing I want to say is thank you for choosing me to read this book. I love the author Wayne Johnson and I loved this book. I received it about 6 weeks ago and I wanted to just savour it and I saved it to read on an upcoming trip to Newfoundland. I started the book on Sunday September 17 and finished it in the terminal in Port Aux Basque on Friday September 22 on our way home. I loved every page, every word. I could have read it much faster but I didn't want it to end. I ...more
Virginia Van
When 14 year-old Ned Vatcher, only 14 comes home from school one winter day in 1936, he finds the house empty, his father's car gone the family car missing, and his parents missing without a trace. Murder/ Suicide? Had they run away and abandoned him? Finding out what happened to them becomes his life's obsession.

Ned is taken in by his father's family, his grandparents, Nan and Reg, his Uncle Cyril and others, who are themselves haunted by the death of Ned's uncle Phonse, mysteriously lost at
...more
Sherry Monger
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wayne Johnston writes of Newfoundland as though it were another character in the story - he writes with admiration and love for its tenacious grit and plucky determination. Johnston's characters are always eccentric, and hardy enough to survive on this often harsh and unforgiving island. Ned Vatcher comes home from school one day, to find his parents gone. There is no note and no explanation as to their whereabouts. Ned doesn't know if he has been abandoned or whether they have come to a bad ...more
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Other books in the series

Newfoundland Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
  • The Custodian of Paradise