Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “First Snow, Last Light” as Want to Read:
First Snow, Last Light
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

First Snow, Last Light

(Newfoundland Trilogy #3)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  909 ratings  ·  142 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 fro
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Knopf Canada
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  909 ratings  ·  142 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of First Snow, Last Light
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 fo ...more
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 beg

You should pay less attention to surfaces and more to trying to discern what lies beneath them....You think that goodness looks good and that truth looks truthful. They almost never do. p69

What lies beneath the surface of the snow? Underneath the fluffy sparkle of freshly fallen white crystals is frozen dirt and rock, hard and dark. Beneath a genteel exterior, murky feelings swirl. What crystallizes is the frozen heart of obsession, more of an enigma than a mystery.

Grief, unmodified, lies in th
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 li ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Epic third novel of The Newfoundland Trilogy featuring the enigmatic Sheilagh Fielding. Reading First Snow, Last Light is not dependent on reading the first two as the settings are separated by years. Johnston grew up in Newfoundland and is a world-class writer, assuredly headed to be featured in the canon of Canadian Literature. I think one reads Johnston for the language--his writing is brilliant, humourous, witty, and descriptive. His characters are all of this and more and we really get insi ...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 wit
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 – wh
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 th ...more
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
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 Ame ...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 sorts
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
Oct 24, 2020 rated it liked it
This has such a great title and cover and I loved the premise of the book; a boy comes home to an empty house and no one can find his parents. For years. The boy grows up, becomes successful and continues to look and unravel the mystery. Great plot, but somehow in the nearly 500 pages I grew weary and felt the book should not have gone on quite so long. I was more captivated by a secondary character, Sheliegh Fielding (who apparently is in another of the author’s books), than the main character. ...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 stre
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
A real page turner from page one! A mystery that illuminates the history of Newfoundland.
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
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.
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Final book in the trilogy. In one word, captivating. Revisiting characters and touching upon events from the first 2 novels. Johnson has created a perfect whirlwind of final conclusions for a group of characters I’ve become quite fond of. 4🌟’s.
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 cent ...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 unl ...more
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
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. ...more
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 pav
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, 1 ...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 joinin ...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
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
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Piano Maker
  • The Innocents
  • Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club
  • Reproduction
  • Five Wives
  • Sweetland
  • Indians on Vacation
  • Full Disclosure
  • Albatross
  • How to Pronounce Knife
  • Watching You Without Me
  • The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Nation
  • The Reason You Walk
  • The Red Word
  • Lampedusa
  • Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood
  • Son of a Trickster (Trickster, #1)
  • We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir
See similar books…

Other books in the series

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

Related Articles

As this strange summer of staying put winds down, one thing remains truer than ever: Books offer us endless adventure and new horizons to...
57 likes · 30 comments