The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, a Canadian bestseller, is a novel about Newfoundland that centres on the story of Joe Smallwood, the true-life controversial political figure who ushered the island through confederation with Canada and became its first premier.

Narrated from Smallwood's perspective, it voices a deep longing on the part of the Newfoundlander to do something significant, “commensurate with the greatness of the land itself.” Smallwood’s chronicle of his development from poor schoolboy to Father of the Confederation is a story full of epic journeys and thwarted loves, travelling from the ice floes of the seal hunt to New York City, in a style reminiscent at times of John Irving, Robertson Davies and Charles Dickens. Absorbing and entertaining, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams provides us with a deep perspective on the relationship between private lives and what comes to be understood as history and shows, as E. Annie Proulx commented, “Wayne Johnston is a brilliant and accomplished writer.”

The New York Times said, “this prodigious, eventful, character-rich book is a noteworthy achievement: a biting, entertaining and inventive saga.... a brilliant and bravura literary performance.”

Read an Excerpt

Besides what little clothing I had, I didn't bring much with me except my oilcloth map of Newfoundland, a fishermen's union pullover with its codfish-emblazoned badge, which I planned to wear while working at the Call, and my father's History of Newfoundland.

My parents and brothers and sisters...
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Reading Guide

1. The New York Times said Newfoundland asserts itself as a setting in the novel “to the point of claiming a character role”; also that “the profound but…doomed love between [Fielding] and Smallwood is the novel’s heart and soul”. To what extent do you think the novel is about Smallwood and...

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Praise for The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams

"It may be the Great American Novel, except it happens to be about Newfoundland."
—Calvin Trillin, The Globe and Mail, 2002

"My big fiction treat this year."
—Ann-Marie MacDonald, National Post

"As absorbing as fiction can be — and [from] one of our continent's best writers."
Kirkus Reviews

"The scope of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is vast, its humour is quiet and assured, its mixture of fact and fiction is altogether bracing, and its writing is about as beautiful and as imaginative as writing gets these days."
—David Macfarlane, The Globe and Mail

"A masterpiece — Mr. Johnston has a genius in him — and a haunting, unmitigated, uncanny vision and grace."
—Howard Norman, author of The Museum Guard and The Bird Artist

"This splendid, entertaining novel is both a version of David Copperfield transposed to 20th-century Newfoundland, and an evocation of vanished ways of life.... Rich and complex, it offers Dickensian pleasures."
—Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and The Voyage of the Narwhal

"A spellbinding, must-read tale.... Johnston's authentic sense of place, history and romance are woven into a magical tapestry."
Winnipeg Free Press

"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."
—E. Annie Proulx, author of The Shipping News

"A classic historical novel... deeply felt and powerfully imagined [that] will make a permanent mark on our literature."
The Toronto Star, Choice for Best Book of 1998

From the Trade Paperback edition.