By Gordon Rodgers
When Tom Vincent’s father dies on Edward Lank’s foundry floor, Lank’s way of making amends is to offer the fourteen-year-old the stewardship of a store on isolated Reach Run Island.
This telling scene reveals a great deal about life in Newfoundland circa 1900. It is also the beginning of the odyssey of Tom Vincent storekeeper, book lover, telegrapher, fisherman, farmer, healer, union organizer, politician, and visionary.
With both a storyteller’s gift for narrative pacing and a poet’s ear for the power of language, Gordon Rodgers makes Tom Vincent’s journey a memorable read. Spanning from the 1870s through the First World War, A Settlement of Memory is a rich evocation of people and place.
Rodgers peoples the novel with compelling characters from Madeline Lane, a woman caught between difficult choices, to Hammond Janes, a journalist who learns observation as a child watching the great fire of 1892.
Though this is a work of fiction, it is also solidly grounded in Newfoundland’s rich and troubled history, particularly its labour history. In constructing a fictional parallel to William Coaker and the Fishermen’s Protective Union, Rodgers mines the wealth of tension and possibility inherent in the relationships between fishermen and merchants, between social entrenchment and change, and between the highly individual nature of Newfoundland’s communities and people and the forces of official authority.
Constructed with passionate attention to detail, A Settlement of Memory both imagines the past and explores the power and limitations of vision to shape the future.