An Innocent in Newfoundland: Even More Curious Rambles and Singular Encounters


308 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-7710-5535-8
DDC 917.1804'4




Reviewed by Melvin Baker

Melvin Baker is an archivist and historian at Memorial University of
Newfoundland, and the co-editor of Dictionary of Newfoundland and
Labrador Biography.


On May 15, 2001, Toronto poet and travel writer David McFadden arrived
at Port aux Basques to commence a five-week odyssey of exploration into
rural Newfoundland by automobile. In this account of his travels,
McFadden, a born conversationalist and storyteller, visits and observes
ordinary people doing the ordinary things of everyday life. His human
encounters include bartenders and their patrons, motel owners,
restaurant waitresses and their customers, truck drivers, video machine
users (“it’s almost impossible to find an unattended slot machine
anywhere in Newfoundland”), and artists. The rural society he
encounters is one that is undergoing tremendous social, economic, and
cultural strains associated with the depopulation of communities
resulting from the federal government’s closure, in 1992, of the cod
fishery, the lifeblood of many communities for several centuries.

McFadden’s modus operandi is to play the innocent in his dealings
with the local populace. This enables him to gain their confidence and
see them in their everyday setting, laughing, cursing, drinking, and
boasting of various exploits. Fascinated with the “Newfoundland
twang,” he is pleasantly surprised when he finds some people who have
the “perfect mainstream CBC accent.” Sometimes his innocent joking
proves hurtful, as when he embarrasses a young woman who asks what he is
doing by saying he’s writing a book entitled Naked Newfoundland.

A vegetarian at heart, McFadden is very clear in his denunciation of
the seal fishery, moose hunting, and any other activity involving the
killing of animals. One of the few communities that meets his approval
is Brigus, which has nice old houses, winding roads, gridless hills, and
“wonderful winding stone fences.” However, Brigus is hardly typical
of rural Newfoundland; in the past few decades, it has become a
favourite summer cottage residence for the St. John’s elite. What the
people McFadden described would think of this book would certainly make
great reading—the innocent observed.


McFadden, David W., “An Innocent in Newfoundland: Even More Curious Rambles and Singular Encounters,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 15, 2024,