Baltimore's Mansion

Baltimore's Mansion

A Memoir

Book - 1999
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This intimate story of family and place - the perfect book to follow the success of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams - will join The Danger Tree and Angela's Ashes on the shelf reserved for most valued memoirs. Baltimore's Mansion - a story of the vivid, moving, hilarious machinations of three generations of fathers and sons - will speak to readers everywhere about the hardships, blessings and power of family relationships. Charlie Johnston is the famed blacksmith of Ferryland, a Catholic colony founded by Lord Baltimore in the 1620s on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. But he must spend the first cold hours of every working day fishing at sea with his sons, one of whom, Wayne's father Arthur, vows that as an adult he will never look to the sea for his livelihood. In the heady months leading to the referendum that results in Newfoundland being "inducted" into Canada, Art leaves the island, parting on mysterious terms with Charlie who dies while he's away, and is plunged into a lifelong battle with the personal demons that haunted the end of their relationship. Years later, Wayne prepares to leave at the same age his father was when he said good-bye, and old patterns threaten to repeat themselves. In this year that commemorates the 50th anniversary of Newfoundland as a province, there will be no book that captures, for all time, both the seductive spirit of the Rock and the   universal spirit of family (no matter how delightfully eccentric) like Baltimore's Mansion.
Publisher: Toronto : A.A. Knopf Canada, c1999.
ISBN: 9780676971460
Characteristics: 272 pages :,map ;,23 cm.


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Jan 29, 2017

I love the way Wayne Johnston captures the cadence of Newfoundland. The voices of my relatives were ringing in my ears as I read. He evoked the isolation and resilience of a hearty people born into a hostile and unforgiving environment. I plan to read every Wayne Johnston book I can get my hands on, even if it means taking up citizenship as a Newfoundlander to borrow from their library.

Aug 20, 2009

This reads more like a work of fiction than a conventional memoir, in that the author imagines many of the events and conversations, some of which took place before his birth. The narrative focuses on two people, the author’s father and his grandfather, and how they were affected by the key events of 20th century Newfoundland, first and foremost the referendum on confederation. It’s a book about families, identity and hardship, but the seriousness is cut with healthy doses of humour. It opens in 1905 with half of St. John’s gathered near the harbour to gape at an iceberg that apparently looks like the Virgin Mary, and includes some very funny descriptions of houses the Johnstons lived in that lacked refrigeration, water, proper plumbing, and other amenities. It’s a great read by itself, but one that also provides insights into Johnston’s fiction.

Nov 18, 2007

This is a good read. It covers a family from the time of confederation and the strength of feeling behind the vote to join Canada.


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Aug 20, 2009

We had lived some indescribably dilapidated houses, at best in old houses maintained to minimum standards. We spent a winter in one house that had no refrigerator. We put our perishables outside on the steps, losing everything except the milk to neighbourhood dogs. One Friday my father, determined not to be deprived for the umpteenth time of bacon and eggs for his Saturday morning breakfast, stayed up all night, keeping guard in the porch over his pound of bacon on the veranda. Each time the pack of dogs advanced on the house, my father chased them off with a shovel that he wielded like a battle-axe. This was 1965. In another house we all awoke one morning to find it being painted by strangers who had been hired by the landlord who had neglected to tell us not only that the painters were coming but that the place was up for sale and we had one week to find somewhere else to live.

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