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Fortin, Gérard and Boyce Richardson.

Montreal, Véhicule Press, c1984. 256pp, paper, ISBN 0-919890-56-3 (cloth) $18.95. 0-919890-55-5 (paper) $9.95.CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Howard Hurt

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

Gérard Fortin is not the sort of man whose autobiography generally wins a place on library shelves. That is unfortunate, because men like him have often led more interesting, if less productive, lives than many notables. What probably made him unique, and certainly led to the writing of this book, was the fact that, although he had a rough life, he thought deeply about such issues as risk-taking and the setting of goals, ideas that usually preoccupy those with more money and leisure.

This is the story, then, of an unpolished, but determined individual, who grew up in the isolation of rural Quebec. After leaving home, he laboured as a farmhand, bushworker, mill employee, seaman, union organizer, full-time Communist, boilerrnan, real estate salesman, tenant ombudsman, and municipal administrator. As he worked to earn a living and to improve the lot of mankind, he also struggled with personal concerns about parenthood, clericalism, sex, marriage, French Canadian nationalism, and simple human relations. The search for angst in such matters led him around the world and then, finally, back to small-town Quebec.

Many individuals have "drunk life to the lees" and it is not uncommon for successful people to look for meaning in their lives by weaving their experiences into an historical background. This book is unique, both in content and format. First, it is the story of a man who, by most conventional standards, was a failure. Secondly, the personal events are related very informally in the first person, while the editor provides historical notes printed in a bolder type.

Life of tlie Party has a lot to offer both as a personal statement and as a review of a very interesting period in Canada's history. There is a good index and some intriguing reproductions of old Communist party posters. It is unfortunate that the rough life led by Fortin resulted in so few photographs. Those that are included definitely help us to understand conditions in the workplace that words cannot adequately describe. This book should be in all Canadian public libraries. If rough language and a few references to womanizing can be tolerated, it could also be useful in high schools.

Howard Hurt, Curriculum Laboratory, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
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