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STARTING OUT: 1920-1947.

Berton, Pierre.

Toronto. McClelland & Stewart, 1987. 343pp, cloth, $26.95, ISBN 0-7710-1342-6. CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Jean Farquharson

Volume 15 Number 6
1987 November

Now is the chance for Pierre Berton's many fans lo find out what he is really like and what events and people in his formative years helped shape him into the successful journalist and well-known personality that he is. He reveals all in this frank and lively first volume of his biography, which begins at his birth in the Yukon and concludes with his departure in 1947 from a Vancouver newspaper to a new career in Toronto with MacLean 's magazine.

In Dawson City of the 1920s, Pierre and his buddies could relive the history of the gold rush, peeking into abandoned buildings, exploring deserted steam engines, trains and steamboats, and listening to stories folk had to tell about past events. His father, an engineer and an intellectual with an insatiable curiosity about the world, took the family for long walks in the hills and explored the river in the small boat he built for them. His mother, a teacher who married when in her forties, encouraged Pierre, who was an avid reader, to enter essay contests and speech competitions.

An extended trip to Toronto opened up a new world to him, and when forced retirement moved the family to Victoria, Pierre involved himself with newswriting, whether by founding his own paper or joining the college news team. His shenanigans with his buddies indicated the energy, drive and sense of humour young Pierre had developed. The skinny, tall redhead drudged seventy hours a week in mining camps all summer to pay his way through university. Finishing at U.B.C., he worked his way from the Ubyssey to a full-time newspaper job.

Pierre joined the army during World War II and worked his way up to a commission, serving as an instructor, but to his dismay never reached the front lines. He continued his newspaper career in Vancouver, resumed his friendships with his news cronies, including Janet Walker, who became his bride. Having learned all the tricks of the trade on the Vancouver Sun, Pierre began reaching out into broadcasting and more substantial journalism. MacLean's was soon alerted to his talents, and his move to work for them in Toronto completes this volume. We await with anticipation the next volume.

With his skill at vividly describing events, places and feelings, Pierre Berton has created a book fascinating to young and old, particularly to the would-be journalist. Several photos and an index are included.

Jean Farquharson, Brantford C.I. & V.S., Brantford, Ont.
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