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Geoffrey Ursell.

Toronto, Macmillan, c1984.
198pp, cloth, $14.95.
ISBN 0-7715-9870-X.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Joan VanSickle.

Volume 12 Number 5
1984 September

Ursell's poetic descriptive style creates strong visual imagery to paint a rapid-fire account of the history of the Prairies. He has done in words what cartoon and video producers do in pictures; he has transformed two hundred years of historical facts into a series of explosive impressions incorporating humour, emotion, and satire.

Perdue, French for "lost," is the central mythic character in the novel. Born as the first white men invade the Prairies, Perdue's childhood parallels the first one hundred years. His adulthood begins at the turn of the century when he assumes responsibility for the maintenance of the promise and the dream of the land.

Through the novel march Hussars, immigrants, a king, Indians, oil men, builders, and significant Giants. These characters, representing the populations who have shaped prairie life, are portrayed in caricature. They derive from historical political cartoons, from Indian mythology, from North American folklore. They are strong, brutal and determined, and their effects on the land are brought about in a violent manner.

Ursell's commentary on the tragic abuse of the land ends in hope as the buffalo begin to repopulate their ravaged ranks, as the oil scavengers leave the fields and as the sweet smells of grass and gophers return. Perdue, through whose eyes the parade is seen, never speaks; however, his poignant appeal for the future is the voice of the land itself.

The book is moving, amusing, and uplifting. Recommended, for senior history and English students.

Joan VanSickle Heaton, Sydenham H. S., Sydenham, ON.
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