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Clyne, J.V.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1985. 312pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-7710-2154-2. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by James Kingstone

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

It is clear from Jack Of All Trades that Jack Clyne is an accomplished man who has enjoyed an interesting, varied, and successful life. From the opening pages, we see that ambition, persistence, and good fortune serve him well as he moves, almost effortlessly it seems, from high school to law school at the University of British Columbia, to an articling position with a firm in London, England, where he takes in his spare time courses at the London School of Economics, subsequently easing himself into practice in Prince Rupert, where he lays a solid foundation for a life in law and business. Of course, Clyne's early life could not have been without struggle, but there is something in the style and something in the point of view from which the story is told that deprive the reader of a sense of full-blooded living. In the telling, too much appears stage-managed to be entirely engaging, the author seems too self-conscious, too sensitive to the man he is late in life at the time of writing to recall with vigour and clarity the man he was years ago before he made his reputation.

Events and experiences and certain feelings in Jack Of All Trades are recorded with care, but autobiographies seem most interesting when the author drops his mask, when in an unguarded moment an unexpected revelation is disclosed. There are few of these. The author's illness as a young man is treated lightly, and his mother's grief at the death of her oldest son, for example, is dismissed unreflectively in the following way: "My mother must have had a very difficult time, apart from financial stringency." It is the kind of line that leaves the reader cold. Clyne is on more comfortable ground when relating stories about meetings with Winston Churchill and Lord Birkenhead, which are amusing indeed.

The absence of reflection undermines this account, making it and the man appear too transparently one dimensional. I suspect most readers, however, will overlook this weakness and make those leaps of imagination usually necessary when reading a novel rather than a memoir. Jack Of All Trades might lose something in the telling, but we should still see Jack Clyne as a man of wide ability and significant accomplishment.

James Kingstone, Ridley College, St. Catharines, Ont.
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