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Ignatieff, Michael.

Markham (Ont.), Viking, Elisabeth Sifton Books, 1987. 191pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-670-81057-6. Distributed by Penguin Canada.

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Adele M. Fasik

Volume 16 Number 1
1988 January

A mixed heritage and a sense of exile are the birthright of many Canadians, but few have been able lo explore their family roots as thoroughly and perceptively as Michael Ignatieff has done. For generations, the Ignatieff family played an important role in the policy-making and administration of successive tsarist governments. Their lives are documented in pictures, letters, diaries and newspapers. Michael Ignatieff grandmother was born into a noble family, and among her ancestors were military officers and scholars.

The story of these two families during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries gives a glimpse of life among pre-revolutionary aristocrats and an account of the terrifying days of revolutionary turmoil. After reaching England, the family attempted to live by farming, but eventually made its way to Canada. High school students will probably best appreciate the excitement of the revolution, during which the shy, retiring Natasha developed unexpected strength in protecting her family while her husband faded into illness. Although the family's hereditary sympathies were with the White Russians, they were not blind to the excesses on both sides. The thoughtful first chapter with its meditation on the meaning of heritage and ancestry might be best read at the end of the book after the reader has come to know the remarkable Ignatieffs.

Adele M. Fasik, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.
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