The Custodian of Paradise – Wayne Johnston

The Custodian of Paradise - Wayne JohnstonJohnston previously wrote The Colony of Unrequited Dreams about Newfoundland and Joey Smallwood. This new novel is a companion story and is much better because the central character, Sheilagh Fielding (a minor character in the earlier Smallwood book) is a fabulous creation; she has a clever mind, a caustic wit and a legendary sarcastic tongue. This is a Newfoundland story from 1916 – 1943, with a New York interlude. Fielding has a knack for controversies, for courting disaster; she is, in other words, a powerful person. There is also a creepy character in the shadows known only as The Provider. Excellent storytelling; thanks Kathryn for this recommendation.

The Fortunate Brother – Donna Morrissey

The Fortunate Brother - Donna MorrisseyA gritty angst-filled guy book set in West Newfoundland. The context – geography and people- is described perfectly. A father and son are paralyzed by grief, so they retreat and psychologically “run away” into a life of drink and anger. The book then becomes a murder mystery with deception and lies and misunderstandings. Annoying behaviour to be sure but the descriptions of the people in a fishing outport trying, usually badly, to have each other’s back is compelling. This is one of Morrissey’s best books.

Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter

A Canada Reads contender. The best feature of this book is the physical description of place, especially Newfoundland. The main character, Henry, is hard to feel much about, either positive or negative; his actions often seem confused, especially his relationship with Martha. The theme of Canada Reads this year was “starting over”. Henry’s journey involves several transitions but he doesn’t seem to grow or change that much. Overall, a very good book, deserving to be on the Canada Reads list, but not surprising that MWP was the first book to be voted off the competition.

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17829329-minister-without-portfolio

Sweetland by Michael Crummey

Sweetland by Michael CrummeyCrummey writes beautifully descriptive books about Newfoundland, both people and places. Sweetland is both a person (an old codger) and a place (an island). The latter half of the book is a brilliant description of solitude. This book is very different from his previous novel Galore which was a mix of history and fantasy.

Amy notes: Later on the 2016 Canada Reads long list