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Brook, Stephen.

Don Mills (Ont.), Collins, 1987. 320pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-00-217887-7. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Marc Shaw

Volume 16 Number 1
1988 January

Englishman Stephen Brook here takes up the pen in the tradition of his nineteenth-century compatriots whose impressions of their journeys to Canada make up a large part of our early literary history. Over a period of some months, Brook travelled the country from east to west; his trenchant and witty observations of the people and places he encountered make up this book.

The objects of Brook's scrutinizing gaze are varied-ranging from the moneyed Crosbie clan of St. John's to the prostitutes of downtown Toronto. He vividly describes the immensity of the James Bay hydroelectric project, the gentrification of Toronto's Cabbagetown, the "inspired vulgarity" of the West Edmonton Mall, and the contrast between the majesty of Niagara Falls and the commercial bedlam of the town that surrounds it. Brook has a gift for both the quick sketch and the longer digression-he holds forth at length on such topics as the treatment accorded our native peoples, the free trade issue, and the language question in Quebec. At times he can appear preachy, but his opinions are not without interest and can be counted on to lead to spirited discussion amongst those who know of the places and peoples about which he writes.

Brook writes with both humour and insight. His anecdotes are highly entertaining, but at the same time, not withstanding his admission that before the trip he subscribed to every imaginable prejudice about Canada, it is evident that he is well versed in his Canadiana. Maple Leaf Rag would make a valuable addition to any family, school or community library.

Marc Shaw, Kingston Learning Centre, Kingston, Ont.
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