In The Custodian of Paradise, Wayne Johnston builds on the tale that he began in The Colony of Unrequited Dreams – a book I have yet to read but will be looking for very soon. The main character of this novel is Sheilagh Fielding, an extremely tall woman who has led a challenging life. She is frequently looked upon with scorn and pity and thus it is hardly surprising that as she grows in years, her personality takes on a hardness that is unmatched.
The book begins with Sheilagh seeking out a new life on a deserted island. Her only contact being the lighthouse keeper from the next island who agrees to provide her with supplies, even then, such contact is fleeting and rare. She looks back upon her life as she shares her experiences with the reader.
I loved this book. The character of Sheilagh Fielding is unique, unforgettable and complex. From the very start it is clear that this is a woman who knows her own mind and lives life on her own terms. As I learned more about her, I found myself feeling all at once, so very close to her and yet totally unable to figure her out. She feels to me, to be a character that is in a constant state of change and I loved that I couldn’t shake her from my thoughts for days after completing the book. I was lucky in that I got to read this along with a book club and so afterwards a few of us were able to bounce around ideas and share our views. This is a great choice for any book club and a book club guide to this novel can be found at bookclubs.ca
The other characters in this novel are also interesting in their own ways. I found myself intrigued by Sheilagh’s father. A man who is very hung up on what the world thinks of him and who has an obsession with finding out the identity of Sheilagh’s real father. He is convinced that because of her height, it is impossibility for her to be his offspring. It made for a curious dynamic between them.
Little is seen of Sheilagh’s mother in the novel but for the brief glimpse I got, I am rather relieved about that fact. I didn’t much care for her at all, to be honest but as I reached the end of the book, I found myself sympathising with her a little more.
This is a novel that is hard to resist. It’s a joy to read and great to discuss with others. It’s definitely one of my favourite reads of this year. Not just for the memorable characters but also for the wonderful writing style. It’s a very fluid and addictive read.
Author's website: http://waynejohnston.ca/