Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Custodian of Paradise - Wayne Johnston

The Basics: The Custodian of Paradise, Wayne Johnston, 2006, 528 pages, hardcover.

How I found it: This book got a fair amount of press when it was released last year and since I have enjoyed some of Johnston's other work, I put my name down on the waiting list at the library.

What's it about?: This is the companion book to Johnston's The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, a fictionalized biography of Joey Smallwood, Newfoundland's first premier. In that book Joey Smallwood's sometime friend and some time nemesis, Fielding, plays a fairly important role at times. This book is Fielding's story. Sheilagh Fielding is a 6'3" misfit, unsure of her heritage, and unable to live according to society's conventions. She has an acid wit and is known about St. John's for it, along with her stature and eccentricity. The book tells the story of her life and focuses on her relationship with a mysterious never seen guardian who will only identify himself as "Your Provider".

Did I like it?: I expected to really like it, but somehow was a bit disappointed. I think perhaps it was because of the length of the book... after awhile it began to drag. I enjoyed Fielding's early years, but as she became more and more obsessed with her provider, I began to lose interest. I found the storyline surrounding her provider to be a little contrived and really beyond belief. I also thought that for a book told in the first person, we didn't really learn that much about Fielding... I didn't feel as if I knew her very well after reading it. She is a very difficult character to relate to, perhaps because she is such a charicature in a lot of ways.

Will you like it?: This is an interesting read, as is usual for a Wayne Johnston book. It is also a unique look at Newfoundland when it was still a colony. However, this wasn't nearly as good as Colony of Unrequited Dreams, or even the Navigator of New York. It has been awhile since I read Colony and I think perhaps this book would be better if read directly after reading Colony.

But don't take my word for it: The usual collection of blurbs and reader reviews from amazon, a review from, one from the Tyee, one from the Chicago Sun-Times, one from the Perceptive Travel Blog, and the author's website.

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