Why do we stack a lot of books at home but never get around to reading them? You maybe don’t do this but some of us do, and I’m one of them. One could say that mystery surrounds this lamentable failing – mysteries, actually – that addiction to successions of finely written tales of murder, intrigue and whodunits by such masters and mistresses of the genre as Robert Goddard, Quintin Jardine, Anne Perry, Ian Rankin, Elizabeth George, Peter Robinson, and the like. Frequenting public libraries bulging with such goodies for the crime-obsessed took over reading hours all too fully, leaving scant opportunity to sample the literary riches here at home. Lately, a touch of reform has finally set in, and I’ve actually pulled a few off the shelf, learning swiftly and not a little shamefully, how very much I’d missed.
Our ill-sorted library goes heavy on Newfoundland books, many read but others long intended but not yet actually explored. Until lately when, spurred by so much reminiscence about the Great War a century ago.
Kevin Major brought home in No Man’s Land the stirring experiences of Newfoundlanders, especially at ill-fated Beaumont Hamel in 1916. A Blue Puttee At War by Sydney Frost is a master work, authentically detailing the wartime exploits of Newfoundland soldiers.
Michael Winter brilliantly reflected on those same experiences in Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead.
A.J. Stacey`s A Soldier’s Story traced one man’s experiences throughout the conflict.
Joan Sullivan’s In the Field tapped into similar themes.
Other Newfoundland-based reading highlights have ranged from Alan Doyle’s entertaining recollections from his musical career, Where I Belong and A Newfoundlander in Canada toMichael Crummeys’stirring novel Sweetland about one man’s struggle against resettlement of remote outports.
But I have yet to get into his imaginative and much praised family saga Galore.
One book I very much wanted to read, and finally did, was Grace Sparkes: Blazing a Trail to Independence by Mary Beth-Wright. While I greatly enjoyed stories of this Newfoundland icon’s exploits in journalism, politics and education, I lamented its occasional editorial lapses.
Of all the Newfoundlandia, I was most impressed and highly gratified by the superlative account by Greg Malone in Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders of the conspiratorial British and Canadian machinations behind Newfoundland’s entry into Confederation. Thoroughly documented at last was the shocking storyline that everyone who lived through that era firmly believed to be the case but could never find proper evidence.
My journalistic friend Bren Walsh tried his best to unravel the true story in his 1985 book More Than A Poor Majority but access to adequate records was denied him.
A lot more invaluable reading riches remain on my still too overloaded To Do List!