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Gates, Lillian F.

Toronto, Dundurn Press, 1988. 412pp, cloth. $29.95, ISBN 1-55002-025-0. CIP

Reviewed by Ian Stewart

Volume 17 Number 1
1989 January

In this biography of William Lyon Mackenzie, Dr. Lillian Gates follows his turbulent career in the years after the abortive rebellion of 1837. In self-imposed exile to escape imprisonment or the gallows, Mackenzie wrote extensively on the state of political affairs in Canada. But, becoming disillusioned in the hope of radical reform in Canada, he turned his pen against those politicians in the United States whom he considered traitors of their own revolution—a revolution for the common man. Mackenzie re-entered the Canadian political scene after the general amnesty of 1849 but was largely ineffectual.

Mackenzie the radical reformer never ceased his attacks on those whose goals differed from his own. For those reformers who in his opinion had betrayed the proper goals of the rebellion, he held nothing but scorn. For Mackenzie, the goal was the creation of a democratic, egalitarian society based on republican principles. The zeal of the vitriolic Mackenzie alienated him from his former friends and isolated him from potential political allies. The result was a life of poverty and hardship for his family and vilification for himself. Nevertheless, he held to this path throughout his life. Was he only a crank—"a pot house brawler"—or a true man of the people, us Gales asserts?

After the Rebellion is written only for the scholar and serious student of history. It is massively documented with an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary materials. The book cannot be recommended for the general student or reader of Canadian history. The narrow scope and tortuous style make it virtually impossible to read. The mass of factual information is never synthesized into a general picture of Mackenzie and his times. We will have to wait for another biography to understand William Lyon Mackenzie and his place in Canadian history better.

Unfortunately, the plot of this novel only is too predictable and the charac­ters too one dimensional to sustain the reader's interest. In the end, Michael and Mary appear ready to reaffirm their affection for one another by renouncing their lovers. Michael recognizes his frailty when he finally has the foreshad­owed heart attack while making love to Angela. He is even reconciled with his daughter, who hands him her newborn baby born out of wedlock. This baby symbolizes life's continuity, despite either the rage or acceptance of the characters.

Buy this novel only if your collection of recent Canadian material must be comprehensive.

Ian Stewart, Wellington School, Sioux Lookout, Ont.
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