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George Jonas

Toronto, Macmillan, 1989. 280pp, cloth, $24.95
ISBN 0-7715-9206-X. CIP

Grades 10 to 13/Ages 15 to 18
Reviewed by Michael Freeman.

Volume 17 Number 5
1989 September

Frank Mrazek, fifty-four years old, born in Czechoslavakia and a resident of Toronto since 1965, has done nothing but race motorcycles since he was fifteen years old. He has had little formal education, has followed no trade or profession, and has never earned sufficient money from his "passion" to even pay his expenses. To indulge his activities he compelled his dutiful wife, a five-time national figure skating champion, to give up a profitable and satisfying career with the Ice Capades. He has broken almost every bone in his body, come face to face with death on numerous occasions, and moves about with difficulty because one leg is permanently crippled. Yet he has never been successful on the international circuit; his victories have come only in local races in Czechoslovakia, Canada, and the United States.

One wonders why George Jonas, a well-known Canadian writer and news­paper columnist, would devote a lengthy book to the exploits of a rather non-heroic character. Only in the last chapter does the reader become aware that Mr. Jonas, born the same year as his protagonist, shares the same fas­cination with motorcycle racing. Both are still active in the Vintage class, risking their aging bodies and reflexes for the transitory thrill of the chase.

Although the detailed chapters on the strategy involved in pursuing success on the motorcycle track may have limited interest for the majority of high school readers, the interspersed accounts of childhood and teenage life in post-war Czechoslovakia will hold a certain fascination for those who have not personally experienced life under a Communist regime. Mrazek's brief career in the army, his courtship and marriage to Jana, and their eventual defection from Czechoslovakia to the West, are also of intrinsic interest. Unfortunately the last third of the book deals solely with Mr. Mrazek's racing exploits, his victories, his injuries, his financial and competitive frustrations, and his inability to retire from the sport, despite the best efforts of his friends and family. Mr. Jonas's informal, enthusiastic writing style carries the action along; but the reader is left at the finish wondering about the point of the story. There is no meaningful ending, in fact, there is no ending at all.

Michael Freeman, Bathurst Heights S.S., North York, Ont.
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