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Madeira Park (BC), Harbour Publishing, c1983.
287pp, cloth, $24.95.
ISBN 0-920080-72-3.

Grades 12 and up.

Reviewed by Adele Case.

Volume 12 Number 6
1984 November

In his foreword to the Raincoast Chronicles Six/Ten, Paul St. Pierre draws an analogy between a new chronicle reader and Coleridge's wedding guest, who had no conception of the marvellous adventures he would stay to hear. This comparison is apt, for the second edition gives us some fabulous tales of the wet, but wonderful western fringe of Canada. Familiar poets are represented (Dorothy Livesay, Susan Musgrave), as well as skilled writers (Norman Hacking, George Woodcock, M. Wylie Blanchet); however, the book is most effective as a visual experience, and through the charm and individuality of the stories. This is a coffee-table book that will be read. A mixture of fantasy, truth, reminiscence, and a dash of pathos provide a diversity that has wide appeal.

No single concept runs through the chronicles. Rather, this book is a tantalizing collection of stories about people who coped, with faith and good humour, in conditions that were wild or scary, but never boring. The characters are seamen, pioneer settlers of different races, workers, crooks, and adventurers who tell us about epic struggles. A few recall ribald anecdotes that are Rabelaisian in their raciness.

And the characters vary wildly: native people; Chinese immigrants who fought not-so-subtle discrimination as they lived out their lives far from their traditional ways; a Japanese fisherman, peremptorily displaced during World War II; and many Europeans who travelled or drifted to British Columbia by plan or by accident. Somehow, such a polyglot population becomes changed by the environment and by the weather. A number of the experiences deal with the problems of coastal fishing, logging, shinglebolt production and transportation. For, despite the bustle of the cities on the southern edges of the province, British Columbia is still largely wilderness. Cartoon selections by Bus Griffiths give us much of the essential vocabulary of the commercial logging operator, teaching us in an entertaining and graphic way.

Each number of the chronicles contains a few stories, a sampling of poetry, a memoir or serious prose selection or two, and shorter filler pieces. All tastes are considered. The history of the now vanished "longhead" Indians will fascinate historians, as may the exploits of the Gumboot Navy, or the pioneer fliers who began Queen Charlotte Airlines. Each section of the chronicles is rounded out with reviews of two or three books of interest.

Much of the delight in this book (a collector's edition) stems from the paintings of E. J. Hughes. These give a visual feel of the West Coast in its sombre or sparkling moods. Any lover of the outdoors, any mariner, any historian or any westerner would want to own and enjoy this book.

Adele Case, Britannia S. S., Vancouver, BC.
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