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Rees, Ronald.

Saskatoon, Western Producer Prairie Books. 1988. 240pp. cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-BBB33-260-2. CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by A.L. Florence

Volume 17 Number 1
1989 January

A readable socio-economic history of the Canadian praries, this volume delineates clearly the stages by which a veritable flood of immigrants was drawn to settle the west, although many eventually withdrew to less demanding locations in more inviting climates.

Misleading government and CPR advertisements appealing to the natural search for a better life are credited with creating high expectations of the new land. The impact of flat, thinly treed grasslands on many people coming from regions built on a smaller scale led to disillusionment and a feeling of homelessness. The rationale for the block survey system, the resulting isolation of scattered farmsteads, the campaign for shelter bells, suitable fruit trees and garden plants, and the Importance of federal experimental farms arc discussed, each having been well researched and illustrated.

Such ventures as Cannington Manor and Lord Selkirk's Red River colonists are more extensively covered than such settlement projects as Isaac Barr's colonists or the Bernardo boys. Greater emphasis is laid on efforts to resist the pressures of the landscape than to adapt to conditions and face the challenge in a positive manner. The trend toward super-mechanization and virtual depopulation of the broad grainfields is accepted without indication that there might exist any alternative more environmentally sound and more protective of a once rich soil cover.

Rees points out the variance among writers about the prairies according to their personal attitudes to the scene. On that basis the tenor of this present work is in keeping, the product of an author who grew up in the hills and vales of Wales, dwelt briefly in Saskatchewan, and retreated to New Brunswick.

A.L. Florence, Winnipeg, Man.
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