Baltimore's Mansion

Baltimore's Mansion

A Memoir

Book - 1999
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Baltimore's Mansion introduces us to the Johnstons of Ferryland, a Catholic colony founded by Lord Baltimore in the 1620s on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, and centres on three generations of fathers and sons. Filled with heart-stopping description and a cast of stubborn, acerbic, yet utterly irresistible family members, it is an evocation of a time and a place reminiscent of Wayne Johnston's best fiction.
Publisher: Toronto : A.A. Knopf Canada, 1999.
ISBN: 9780676972979
Branch Call Number: JOHNSTON JOH
Characteristics: 272 p. : maps


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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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