1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A novel that amuses often but rarely moves....,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (Hardcover)
The colony in question is Newfoundland, one of the British Empire's first acquisitions, which was relinquished to Canada a mere half-century or so ago. The novel follows the career of Joey Smallwood, who rises from humble origins to become Premier of the newly-confederated Canadian province. Smallwood is portrayed as a tenacious, trouble-making demagogue who, by degrees, transforms himself into a pragmatic politician. Historical and fictional episodes are juxtaposed, and both are populated with a mixed cast of real and imaginary characters. As a foil for the idealistic Smallwood, Johnson invents the colourful figure of Shelagh Fielding, a cynical journalist, and author of the sublimely sarcastic 'Condensed History of Newfoundland' which is excerpted throughout the book, providing a droll counterpoint to Smallwood's progress. The novel is strongest in its comic moments, and in its evocation of Newfoundland's landscape and history. Elsewhere though, a good deal of Johnson's fictionalising, presumably intended to heighten the drama of his tale, falls more or less flat. The upshot is a novel that often amuses, occasionally fascinates but rarely moves the reader.