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Riley, Susan.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1989. 191pp, paper, $5.95, ISBN 0-7710-7509-X. CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by Joan McGrath

Volume 17 Number 3
1989 May

This extremely readable, often caustic work uses the likes of Mila Mulroney, Nancy Reagan and Maureen McTeer, among others, as examples, but what it is about, apart from all the fascinating gossip, is not the particular ladles sliced open by the author's razor-sharp scalpel. No, no. It concerns the unhealthy institution of political wifehood itself.

According to Riley, it is "not a respectable job; it is bestowed, not earned." Mila, Nancy and the rest have not been elected to office and have no more business intruding into affairs of state than a surgeon's wife (or husband, come to that) would entering the operating theatre to offer advice and/or opinions. Riley castigates the institution itself as punishing and destructive to those subjected to its pressures, describing it as a form of "house arrest... a set of limitations and restrictions that would constitute mental cruelty in a more enlightened society."

The irreverent editorial writer for the Ottawa Citizen knows well the milieu of which she is so stringent a critic. Her acid-etched portraits of Mila Mulroney, "patently insincere"; Nancy Reagan, Ronnie's "echo chamber"; Olive Diefen-baker, now elevated to near-sainthood but in fact ruthlessly ambitious and spiteful; and particularly of Margaret Trudeau, the spectacularly unsuitable "Compleat Flake," and others are wickedly entertaining, but at the same time thought-and question-provoking for serious students of both world and Canadian politics and politicians.

Joan McGrath, Toronto Board of Education, Toronto, Ont.
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