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Joseph Smallwood was born on Christmas Eve in 1900, and was fated to lead his native Newfoundland out of English rule and into the arms of its giant neighbour, Canada. He suffered from bad luck and worse judgement, but his rise to power seemed almost inevitable.
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The colony of the title is Newfoundland, which from the early 1600s to as recently as 1948 was a British colony. Then at a referendum its sturdily independent inhabitants had the choice between outright independence or confederation with Canada. They chose the latter, by a whisker, and the man who led them in that decision was Joe Smallwood, the subject of this book. Although there is a lot of history here, this is emphatically a novel, richly imagined and enormously entertaining. Joe Smallwood has a tumultuous life: raised by a drunken, larger-than-life father, (who likes to cry out that Newfoundland should have been called Old Lost Land), everything seems to go wrong for Joe, from being wrongfully expelled from school to a succession of disastrous career moves, and plenty of sheer bad luck. "Up to the age of forty-six," he wryly observes, "I would have been voted by those who knew me to be the man last likely to warrant a biography". Yet this is a biography of sorts, by turns funny, moving, satirical and mysterious. It also beautifully evokes the harsh landscape of the colony itself, "the Elba of the North Atlantic". There's no doubt about it: Wayne Johnston is up there with Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, and E. Annie Proulx. Another testament to the extraordinary strength of the modern Canadian novel. --Christopher HartReview:
"A novel of cavernous complexity that nevertheless doesn't overwhelm the reader, who can repose in pure narrative without second thoughts--[an] eloquent anti-epic."--Luc Sante, New York Times Book Review"Gorgeously written--Immensely readable--."--Seattle Times "Charles Dickens would have greatly admired Johnston's style and humor--And the old master would have envied the vivid scenes Johnston draws of Smallwood's impoverished boyhood."--Houston Chronicle "Brilliantly realized--There's an epic quality to The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, and it may well be referred to, before long, as the quintessential Newfoundland novel."--San Diego Union Tribune "Splendid...entertaining...Rich and complex, it offers Dickensian pleasures."--Andrea Barrett "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."--Annie Proulx
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Book Description Doubleday, 1999. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0385600275