I've been stuck on books from Newfoundland lately, so my fingers grabbed A Settlement of Memory by Gordon Rodgers (Killick Press) when last they cruised the shelves. Inspired by William Coaker, founder of the Fisherman's Protective Union, Rodgers has created Tom Vincent, a powerful, driven, charismatic figure. Rodgers relies on this character to move his story,and move it he does. Starting in 1876 and ending shortly after the Great War, A Settlement of Memory tracks Vincent's mission to bring equality—and quality—to the lives of Newfoundland's fishermen, through unionization. Vincent is introduced as an acne-stricken, socially awkward fourteen-year-old, orphaned when his father is killed working in the local merchant's foundry; the merchant, Edward Lank, gives dubious compensation in the form of a job running his store on isolated Reach Run Island. As Vincent grows to manhood he observes the desperate situation of the local fishermen: they struggle to overcome their ever-growing debt to the merchants, who control fish prices and are the only source of household goods. Devouring every piece of knowledge he can wring from books and from the earth itself, Vincent sheds his teenage skin and becomes a telegrapher, a farmer, a fisher, a healer, a union leader and a politician, all in the name of his vision, which is to bring independence to the labourers of Newfoundland. The story made me wonder whether we need magnetic individuals to provoke change. Other characters, such as George, the loyal right-hand man, and Madeline, the ubiquitous love interest, find themselves orbiting Vincent, and I too found myself willing to forgive the drinking, the graft, the abuses of power. I asked myself how much autocracy is justifiable in the name of social justice. This is a good glimpse of Newfoundland before it was Canada, and a well-written story about politics and movements, and the visionaries who move them.