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Davey, Keith.

Toronto, Stoddart, c1986. 383pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-7737-2090-1. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Allan S. Evans

Volume 15 Number 1
1987 January

In addition to being a consummate political pro, Senator Keith Davey has the reputation of being a lively, interesting, and humorous individual. Such a combination in a man who was the undisputed king of the backroom boys in the smoke-filled rooms of Canadian federal politics for most of the last twenty-five years should augur exceedingly well for his autobiography. Alas. Disappointment.

To be sure, the author's underlying decency, patriotism, and humanitarian idealism show through. And there are flashes of the dry, often self-deprecating Davey wit. Duncan Macpherson cartoons, usually featuring the author, abound, as do black-and-white group photos showing Davey in the company of all too often obscure individuals attending long past and equally obscure political events. There are even a few smatterings of the Davey political philosophy and hints about the tricks of the trade that make up his undeniable expertise as a party organizer and election strategist. But on the whole, and in light of its great potential, this book is (sorry) BORRRRRRRing.

The main problem is the author's apparent lack of a clear purpose or cohesive theme. Although it follows a basically chronological order, the book seems disjointed. The author narrates a host of events, but makes quantum leaps in theme and setting, often from one paragraph to the next. Some of the events are important, and generally known to the public. The reader therefore anticipates the shedding of new light upon them and when, as is all too often the case, none is forthcoming, confusion or lack of interest arises, or both. Other events recalled by the author are not well known and, when they remain unembellished. only add to the general disorientation of those readers not within the Senator's inner circle. But it is the stream of consciousness style that smacks of self-absorption and creates the dual impressions of haste and aimlessness.

Is it credible that a man of Davey's experience, ability, and knowledge had no purpose in writing his own life story? It is not nearly as revealing as it could be, if he wished to unmask, titillate, or entertain. It is too haphazard and superficial to educate, either politically or historically. And it is certainly too unconvincing to be an apologia for the author's confessed all-time hero, Pierre Trudeau.

A massive media hype accompanied the launching of this book. Much was made of the so-called dirt it revealed about the current Liberal leader, John Turner. This in turn was parlayed by some imaginative commentators into speculation that Davey was plotting yet another return to power for Trudeau (and thus, perhaps, himself)- Yet to repeat, hardly any dirt is dug up about anybody in this dull tome. The author sheds little new light of any kind on Turner and what he does offer seems fairly balanced, both pro and con.

Obviously Davey has much too keen a sense of decency and fairplay lo savage the reputations of his political contemporaries although he, if anyone, must have the knowledge to do so if he chooses. More likely, both he and his publisher sensed an urgent commercial need to do some serious flogging of some evidently weak literary horseflesh.

Allan S. Evans, Emery C.I., North York, Ont.
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