Like the legendary stories his Newfoundland relatives told--stories that flowed back and forth, picking up after interruptions--Macfarlane offers a book in which personal memoir, history, and reflection on war all come together in one memorable, luminous whole.
Growing up in Canada, Macfarlane was soon aware of the great difference between his father's relations, who maintained silence ``with the same hospitable agility a graceful conversationalist uses to overcome it,'' and his mother's family from Newfoundland, who loved to talk ``in great looping circles.'' And it is these stories of the Goodyear family of Newfoundland, which Macfarlane recalls as he relates a family history, that are in many ways a history of Newfoundland itself. Until voting to join Canada in 1948, Newfoundland was Britain's oldest colony, and this decision, which the author's grandfather could never forgive, led to one of the great family stories, for the old man apparently once told the now-Queen, in Newfoundland on a visit, exactly what he thought. An integral part of Newfoundland, the Goodyears immigrated from the western coast of England in the early 18th century, living first in an isolated fishing village, then moving in 1908 to Grand Falls in the interior. Here, in this company town established to provide paper for one of Britain's great press-barons, they prospered, but, like so many loyal Newfoundlanders, the Goodyears were irrevocably affected by WW I. Two thirds of the Newfoundlanders who volunteered were either killed or wounded; the Goodyear family sent five sons, and only two returned. It is this war that resonates through Macfarland's story: the way in which the family and the island responded, and were then subsequently changed, describes a place and a people of fierce independence, courage and loyalty, who would never be quite the same again.
A remarkable and beautifully written book in which the rich stuff of family and local history join together to entertain, to instruct, and to move deeply.