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Baltimore's Mansion

Johnston, Wayne

302 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0676971466 / ISBN 13: 9780676971460
Published by Knopf
Used Condition: Good Hardcover
From ThriftBooks - Free State (Halethorpe, MD, U.S.A.)

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Book shows minor use. Cover and Binding have minimal wear, and the pages have only minimal creases. Bookseller Inventory # G0676971466I3N00

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Baltimore's Mansion

Publisher: Knopf

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Good

About this title


The acclaimed author of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams introduces us to the Johnstons of Newfoundland in an intimate, captivating memoir of three generations of fathers and sons.

The New York Times called Wayne Johnston's The Colony of Unrequited Dreams "an eventful, character-rich book...a brilliant and bravura literary performance."  His marvelous new memoir, Baltimore's Mansion, is equally impressive, filled with heart-stopping descriptions, a cast of stubborn, acerbic, yet entirely irresistible family members, and an evocation of time and place reminiscent of his best fiction.

Charlie Johnston is the famed blacksmith of Ferryland, a Catholic colony founded by Lord Baltimore in the 1620s on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland.  For his prowess at the forge, he is considered as necessary as a parish priest at local weddings.  But he must spend the first cold hours of every workday fishing at sea with his sons, one of whom, the author'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 for college and an eventual career with Canadian Fisheries, studying and regulating a livelihood he and his father once pursued.  He parts on mysterious terms with Charlie, who dies while he's away, and Art 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 Art was when he said good-bye to Charlie, and old patterns threaten to repeat themselves.

At times a harrowing tale of trails in the darkness, of grand desolation and dangerous coasts, Baltimore's Mansion speaks to us all about the hardships, blessings, and power of family relationships, of leaving home and returning.


In this forceful, complex memoir, Wayne Johnston returns to the setting of his 1999 novel, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. Johnston doesn't just come from Newfoundland, remotest of Canada's provinces; he comes from the Avalon Peninsula, the most isolated portion of Newfoundland (and confused in young Wayne's boyish imaginings with the mythical Avalon, where King Arthur sailed to be healed of mortal wounds). It's an apt metaphor for a land that "was the edge of the known world, and looked it." Avalon's natives fiercely resented the 1948 referendum that joined Newfoundland to the Canadian Confederation--especially Johnston's father, the memoir's central character, who keens for lost independence in a manner highly reminiscent of Stephen Dedalus's father in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Indeed, parallels with Ireland are evident throughout, not just because the Johnstons are descended from Irish immigrants but because the Newfoundlanders exhibit a similar passionate insularity and zest for feuding among themselves. Johnston's muscular, plainspoken prose bears little resemblance to that of James Joyce, but his themes of exile and loss, loyalty and betrayal, and an ancient culture's ambivalent relationship with modernity resonate with the great writer's most urgent concerns. --Wendy Smith

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