“Finton Moon” is the award-winning first novel by Gerard Collins, and a recent release from Killick Press.
Collins teaches English at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and he’s become a writer to watch since last year’s publication of ‘Moonlight Sketches.’
Set in the ironically-named fictional town of Darwin, Newfoundland, ‘Moonlight Sketches’ is a cycle of connected short stories.
Darwin is not a happy place, and Collins works with the idea of individuals and their society not moving ahead, not supporting each other, not — evolving.
This bleak outlook on Newfoundland and Labrador life plays out in more detail in “Finton Moon,” still set in Darwin.
The wider canvas of a novel gives Collins more space in which to build his themes: of cruelty and malice, intolerance of every kind, violence, poverty, repression, and the pain of growing up, especially in the closed and claustrophobic environment of Darwin.
But it’s not all to do with struggling against the cramped and insular confines of a small town. In the context of growing up, the book is about friendship; the obligations of familial and romantic love; and the hard, but often thrilling journey of self-discovery.
From birth, the title character, Finton Moon, is seen as different, in childhood, he too is aware of not being like everyone else. He’s regarded as fanciful and day-dreamy. He grows up with a love of books and reading, and this alone sets him apart.
He takes inner refuge on his imaginary Planet of Solitude.
And, just possibly, he is able to perform miracles of healing.
Just who — or what — Finton is, is a question that Collins leaves unresolved until the end.
“Finton Moon” reminded me of great novels like “David Copperfield,” “Of Human Bondage,” “Sons and Lovers,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Catcher in the Rye.”
And Gerard Collins deserves much credit for exploring ideas common to these works within the Newfoundland and Labrador milieu.
Darrell Squires is assistant manager of Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries, West Newfoundland-Labrador division. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 634-7333. His column appears every other week.