They should have called it Old Lost Land, not Newfoundland, but Old Lost Land.' So says Charlie Smallwood of the birthplace to which he had himself contributed thirteen children. 'Thirteen', he would say, 'A luckless number for a luckless brood.' But the eldest of the thirteen was Joseph, born on Christmas Eve 1900 and fated to lead the colony out of English rule and into the arms of its giant neighbour Canada.
Grandson of a bootmaker, son of an impoverished drunk, wrongly expelled schoolboy, failed journalist, would-be socialist firebrand and trade-union pioneer, Joey Smallwood suffered chronically from bad luck and poor judgement. Yet his rise to power, seen through his own eyes and those of Sheilagh Fielding, satirical columnist and scourge of Newfoundland politicians of every hue, seems in retrospect to have been inevitable.
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams uses the unlikely career of Newfoundland's first premier as it starting point to create a mystery, a love story and a tragi-comic elegy which is nothing less than the national history of an impossible country stranded on the brink of the world.