As I mentioned earlier this week, I had planned to travel to Newfoundland and Labrador this summer. As Newfoundland is currently off limits unless you already live there full time, that trip has now, sadly, been postponed until 2021. Since I can’t visit Newfoundland in person this year, I thought that the next best thing would be to travel through reading! With that in mind, I have put together this list of 15 books set in Newfoundland.
Ideally, as I write more in this series of books from around the world, I would like to be able to put together lists of books that I have read, so that I can provide reviews and recommendations. Unfortunately, I have discovered that I have not yet read any books set in Newfoundland. At least not any that I can remember.
This list is as much a reading list for me as it is a list that I have put together for others. Some of the books on this list aren’t in genres that I typically read, and will stretch my reading if I pick them up. But there are many that sound right up my alley, and I am excited to add them to my TBR. Hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll have read at least a couple from this list and will be able to provide you with some personal recommendations.
Because I have not read these books, I have kept my descriptions below to a couple of lines of what I gathered to be the most pertinent information.
1. The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith
This is a young adult young adult novel set in Newfoundland in the 1980s. The story focuses on Bun O’Keefe – a 14 year old girl who runs away to St. John’s after her mother tells her to leave one day, and is taken in by a street musician. This is one that has been on my list for awhile, and I am hoping to pick it up this summer.
2. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston
This historical fiction centres on Joe Smallwood, the first premier of Newfoundland. The book follows him from the time he’s a schoolboy up until adulthood when he takes his place in history. At almost 600 pages in length, this book is no small undertaking, but it is highly recommended everywhere I looked.
3. Last Lullaby by Alice Walsh
This book, the author’s debut mystery novel, follows a lawyer as she investigates the death of her friend’s small child. Set in the fictional town of Paddy’s Arm, Newfoundland, this mystery is described in the blurb as “equal parts police procedural and diner gossip.”
4. Sweetland by Michael Crummey
I don’t tend to read a lot of books in the literature genre, but this one sounds so intriguing that I really want to pick it up. It follows an old man who finds himself struggling to survive on a remote island, amidst the ghosts of the former islanders, after he has faked his own death to avoid leaving during a mandatory relocation project.
5. February by Lisa Moore
This literary fiction was the winner of Canada Reads in 2013. It follows a woman who lost her husband when the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland in 1982. It is a dual timeline narrative about grief, community, and memory, that moves between present day and February 1982.
6. Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper
This is a literary fiction that looks at a family that is on the verge of extinction as they struggle to stay together in a small fishing village after all the fish have disappeared. Every blurb I read was slightly different, but the reviews are good and many say that it is beautifully written. The cover is also really lovely.
7. A Roll of the Bones by Trudy J. Morgan-Cole
Speaking of covers… based solely on the cover, I don’t think I would ever pick this book up. Not even to read the description. But it appears on almost every list that I looked at, and it sounds like it might be good. This is a historical fiction set in the early 1600s and it’s the first in a trilogy that looks at Newfoundland in the time of colonization.
8. One for the Rock by Kevin Major
Not only is this a mystery, which I love, but the story centres on a murder in a tour group in St. John’s, so it combines both mystery and travel. It has mixed reviews on Goodreads, but I am definitely intrigued by the premise. It is also quite short at just under 200 pages, so I think it would make for a good vacation read.
9. As Near to Heaven by the Sea by Kevin Major
If you think this author name sounds familiar, you would be correct, as this is the same author as the previous book. Where that was a mystery, this is a non-fiction history of Newfoundland. If non-fiction is more your style, this might be one to pick up.
10. Son of a Critch by Mark Critch
I don’t read a lot of memoirs, and I’m not even overly familiar with Mark Critch. But this one has pretty good reviews on Goodreads and sounds like it could be a fun read, as it is supposedly quite funny. Critch focuses mostly on his experience growing up in Newfoundland in the 1980s.
11. Flannery by Lisa Moore
Flannery is a young adult contemporary, by the same author as February. It features love, friendship and the ups and downs of high school, mixed with a dash of fantasy as the main character creates a love potion that is rumoured to actually work. This one sounds like a lot of fun, and I am hoping to pick it up this summer.
12. Grey Islands by John Steffler
I am forever trying to encourage myself to pick up more poetry. And this is one that I have now added to that list. This book is described as a novel in the form of poems and features the interplay between nature and human society.
13. Random Passage by Bernice Morgan
This is the first book in a historical fiction duology that has been adapted into a CBC miniseries. Described as a history of daily life, this book follows a family that is forced to flee England as they look to start a new life facing the harsh realities of their new home.
14. Come, Though Tortoise by Jessica Grant
I think this book would fit into either the contemporary or literature genre. The story follows a young woman who moves back to Newfoundland when she learns that her father is in a coma. It also features an opinionated tortoise… Need I say more? I am looking forward to picking this one up.
15. Against her Rules by Victoria Barbour
Seeing as how we’re going to summer and the season of beach reads, I would be remiss not to include a romance pick. This sounds like a fairly standard, fun, romance with a main character that runs a Bed & Breakfast in Newfoundland. It sounds like it includes some steamy times, so if that’s not your thing, pass this one by.
Have you read any of the books on this list? If so, which do you recommend? Do you know of any books set in Newfoundland that I should add to this list, or that you particularly enjoyed?
Until next time,