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First Snow, Last Light

de Wayne Johnston

Sèrie: The Newfoundland Trilogy (book 3)

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
713314,417 (3.79)20
From the author of the critically acclaimed, prizewinning and internationally bestselling The Colony of Unrequited Dreams comes an epic family mystery with a powerful, surprise ending, which features the return of the ever-fascinating Sheilagh Fielding, one of the most memorable characters in fiction. Ned Vatcher, only 14, ambles home from school in the chill hush that precedes the first storm of the winter of 1936 to find the house locked, the family car missing, and his parents gone without a trace. From that point on, his life is driven by the need to find out what happened to the Vanished Vatchers. His father, Edgar, born to a poor family of fishermen, had risen to become the right-hand man to the colony's prime minister, then suffered an unexpected fall from grace. Were he and his wife murdered? Was it suicide? Had they run away? If so, why had they left their only child behind?     Ned soon finds himself enmeshed in another family, that of his missing father and the poverty from which the man somehow escaped. His grandparents, Nan and Reg, his Uncle Cyril and others, are themselves haunted by the inexplicable disappearance of a third Vatcher, a young man who was lost at sea on a calm and sunny day years earlier. Two other people loom large as Ned becomes Newfoundland's first media mogul, building an empire to insulate him from loss: a Jesuit priest named Father Duggan, and Sheilagh Fielding, a boozy giantess who, while wandering the city streets at night, composes satiric columns that scandalize the rich and powerful. In Ned, Fielding sees a surrogate for her two lost children, the secret that dogs her life, while Ned believes the enigmatic Fielding to be his soulmate.      The novel builds to a spectacular resolution of the mystery of all the Vanished Vatchers. Only Wayne Johnston could create such larger-than-life, mythic characters embroiled in events that leave us contemplating not only their tragedies and triumphs, but the forces that compel us all to act in ways that surprise and sometimes terrify us.… (més)
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Es mostren totes 3
Loved it! Wayne Johnston can really tell a great story and develop complex characters. This book drew me in from the beginning and I always sighed when life required me to stop reading for a while.

At 14 years old, Ned Vatcher comes home to an empty house and never sees his parents again. They have disappeared and a thorough search reveals no clues or signs of their bodies or car. We follow Ned's life over several decades and watch as his obsession with solving his parents disappearance becomes the defining feature of his life.

There are several strong characters in this book, including Sheilagh Fielding who was a major character in Colony of Unrequited Dreams (which I read) and Custodian of Paradise (which I'm going to read). Fielding is a misfit -- a woman working in a man's field, alcoholic, disabled, spinster, over six feet tall -- and Ned's obsession and wealth make him a misfit as well. They understand each other. Ned's grandparents are also strong characters, dealing with the death of one son and now the disappearance of another. I feel as if I've come to know these fictional people and can understand what drives the choices they've made. Wonderful book -- great story and strong characters both! ( )
1 vota LynnB | Feb 18, 2019 |
I really liked this book, the author really makes everyone come to life, and I got drawn into all the struggles everybody went through. The book spans decades, but the passage of time is really well done, and it was neat to see how everyone changes (or doesn't, in a couple cases) as they age. definitely pick this up when it's released.

I won this from a goodreads giveaway ( )
  cdevine18 | Sep 17, 2017 |
Fourteen-year-old Ned Vatcher returns home from school one day in 1936 to discover that his parents, Edgar and Megan, have disappeared. Though he has to live with his paternal grandparents, Nan Finn and Reg, it is Father Duggan, a Jesuit priest, and Sheilagh Fielding, a friend of his parents, who become his most stalwart supporters. Cyril, Edgar’s brother, also remains an important character in Ned’s life, though not always in a positive way. Various points of view are provided, but the focus is on Ned and Sheilagh.

Ned’s entire life is driven by his parents’ disappearance. He realizes that “to find out what had become of them would be the main goal of my life.” He also decides that unlike his parents who were destitute and debt-ridden before their disappearance, “I would never want for money if I could help it, no matter what I had to do to get it.” Unfortunately, he ends up losing himself. He becomes “deaf to the tones of my own life” and feels “There simply was nothing at the innermost of me.”

Characterization is a strong element in the novel. Ned is a dynamic character who changes as the years pass. As mentioned, he is shaped by the mysterious disappearance of his mother and father; he spends his life “lamenting the loss of things [he] never had” and loses himself; at one point, he is pointedly told, “’I know who and what I am, Ned Vatcher. Not everyone can say the same.’”

Besides Ned, there are other characters who are fully developed. Nan Finn and Sheilagh Fielding are among the most memorable. Both are sharp-tongued, targeting those who displease them. Nan Finn, for example, had no sympathy for Megan who was very unhappy in Newfoundland and yearned to return to London: “’I can tell by those eyes of hers. It’s a wonder dinner gets cooked what with her being so busy bawling and wishing she was there instead of here. . . . What do people do in London? . . . Sit around and talk to each other with their eyes closed. I better keep busy or I’ll get bored and long for London.’” Sheilagh’s targets are the rich and powerful; she writes a regular newspaper column in which she exposes their foibles and hypocrisies.

Sheilagh appears in the previous two novels of the Newfoundland Trilogy: The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and The Custodian of Paradise. Both titles are actually mentioned by Sheilagh. It is not necessary to read these books first, but they do provide background to events which are mentioned in this third book. This book brings Sheilagh’s story to a close. It has been a while since I read the first two novels in the series and I think I may go back to them.

Abandonment and disappearance are central motifs in the novel. Edgar and Megan disappear and leave Ned feeling abandoned. Sheilagh disappeared from the lives of her children and ends up feeling abandoned herself. Prowse abandoned Sheilagh and his children and in the end “There was no sign in [his eyes] of anything.” Phonse, Ned’s uncle, vanished at sea on a calm day and was never found; Nan Finn, in particular, tries to understand what happened to him. Ned adopts a child but makes a fateful decision which he comes to regard as his worst mistake, “his sin against his son, which was all too similar to the one that Edgar and Megan committed against him – abandonment to the hands of strangers.”

Even Newfoundland is abandoned when there is a vote to join Canada; Sheilagh muses about “the colony of unrequited dreams that would never be acknowledged as a nation except by those of us who made it one.” Appropriately, the books about Newfoundland that are collected by both Edgar and Ned are lost or damaged. And it is surely significant that The Last Newfoundlander loses his voice because of a botched operation.

As a former English teacher, I loved the many literary allusions. Sheilagh has a room in a brothel; she paraphrases T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “I grow old, I grow old. In the rooms the women come and go, talking of Mike and Al and Joe.” Ned alludes to Joseph Conrad’s novel when he speaks of being “in quest of the heart of no one’s darkness but my own.” Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar makes an appearance (“’I come to query Cyril, not to please him’”) as does The Tempest (“’We are all such stuff as murder is made of’”).

One theme is that “you can taint your whole life by doing one thing wrong” so “even a good man might be the engine of a tragedy.” This theme is mentioned both at the beginning and the end and developed through the lives of several characters.

Though the book is more than a mystery, interest is certainly maintained throughout as to what happened to the Vanishing Vatchers. Just like Ned, the reader will find him/herself trying to learn what happened to Edgar and Megan and why no trace of them was found. There are sufficient clues given so an astute reader may guess the solution.

I have enjoyed Wayne Johnston’s previous novels and this one is no exception. It is great literary fiction with memorable characters, carefully developed themes, and a strong sense of place.

Note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
2 vota Schatje | Sep 5, 2017 |
Es mostren totes 3
In Wayne Johnston's fine new novel, First Snow, Last Light, vanished parents also cause havoc to a young man who spends a lifetime seeking them, and making himself king of St. John's. The book is a leisurely account of the warping of personality by loss, and a cracking mystery at the same time....His historical touch is light, and he's especially good on early 20th-century social mores, particularly the enormous pressure to conform..Yet First Snow, Last Light is decidedly unblurry, instead a clear examination of the heart and its deepest wants. It's also a compelling whodunit, with tension spun out across much of its length.
 
Sadly, this time around the character seems tired. While her wit remains as sharp, she is not aging well. By the novel’s end, it feels very much like Johnston, overly fond of his creation, was determined to wrap up her story with enough hope and happiness to make up for the torment she’d endured at his hands throughout her existence..The combination of these two mysteries is almost too much for one book. Connections between them are meted out over the course of a slow-moving plot that jumps back and forth over three decades from the mid-1930s onward, with a few earlier episodes related via letters or flashbacks..With First Snow, Last Light, Johnston may have given the character of Fielding the swan song she deserves, but the central story of Ned Vatcher and his parents isn’t strong or engaging enough to carry the novel otherwise. While the writing overall is as crisply wry as ever, Ned’s narration is oddly flat. Fans of Johnston’s previous novels may well appreciate the return to familiarity, but will likely be disappointed by this latest work.
 

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From the author of the critically acclaimed, prizewinning and internationally bestselling The Colony of Unrequited Dreams comes an epic family mystery with a powerful, surprise ending, which features the return of the ever-fascinating Sheilagh Fielding, one of the most memorable characters in fiction. Ned Vatcher, only 14, ambles home from school in the chill hush that precedes the first storm of the winter of 1936 to find the house locked, the family car missing, and his parents gone without a trace. From that point on, his life is driven by the need to find out what happened to the Vanished Vatchers. His father, Edgar, born to a poor family of fishermen, had risen to become the right-hand man to the colony's prime minister, then suffered an unexpected fall from grace. Were he and his wife murdered? Was it suicide? Had they run away? If so, why had they left their only child behind?     Ned soon finds himself enmeshed in another family, that of his missing father and the poverty from which the man somehow escaped. His grandparents, Nan and Reg, his Uncle Cyril and others, are themselves haunted by the inexplicable disappearance of a third Vatcher, a young man who was lost at sea on a calm and sunny day years earlier. Two other people loom large as Ned becomes Newfoundland's first media mogul, building an empire to insulate him from loss: a Jesuit priest named Father Duggan, and Sheilagh Fielding, a boozy giantess who, while wandering the city streets at night, composes satiric columns that scandalize the rich and powerful. In Ned, Fielding sees a surrogate for her two lost children, the secret that dogs her life, while Ned believes the enigmatic Fielding to be his soulmate.      The novel builds to a spectacular resolution of the mystery of all the Vanished Vatchers. Only Wayne Johnston could create such larger-than-life, mythic characters embroiled in events that leave us contemplating not only their tragedies and triumphs, but the forces that compel us all to act in ways that surprise and sometimes terrify us.

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