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Raymond Massey.

Halifax, Goodread Biographies, c1976, 1983.
(Canadian Lives #12).
Distributed by Formac.
269pp, paper, $5.95.
ISBN 0-88780-112-9.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Anne Locatelli.

Volume 11 Number 5.
1983 September.

When the talented Canadian actor Raymond Massey decided to write about his life in the theatre, the vivid memories of his childhood and teenage years kept pouring out. As a result he wrote two books: When I Was Young followed by My Working Years (McClelland and Stewart, 1976).

Born in 1896 to the wealthy Massey family of Toronto, Raymond grew up on Jarvis Street in an Edwardian mansion surrounded by gardens and farmland with an entourage of maids, grooms, gardeners, and coachmen. The candid and witty descriptions of his childhood years provide a very precious glimpse into the gracious, slow-moving life of the very wealthy in the early years of the twentieth century. Raymond writes with gusto about childish pranks, school years at Upper Canada College, family outings to Muskoka, and trips to Europe. When the First World War broke out, he was travelling in France with his brother Vincent: the description of this trip, by car, is simply hilarious. Sad memories crop up as well throughout the narrative: the tragic death of his young mother, the burning of the barn and the suicidal death of three cherished horses, and then the war, the fighting in the trenches, the suffering of shell shock, ending up in Siberia with his Canadian comrades. All through these years the theatre bug kept biting him until finally he suddenly decided to throw aside a promising career in the family business to become an actor.

Though told in an easy flowing style the stories are too detailed to hold the attention of young readers. Interesting as the descriptions may be, the major appeal comes from the historical background that offers a rare insight into the life of Canada's upper class establishment of the time. The twenty-four page section of black-and-white photographs placed in the middle of the book add a welcome visual aid to the written descriptions.

Anne Locatelli, Elliot Lake S. S., Elliot Lake, ON.
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