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Edited by Cynthia M. Smith and Jack McLeod

Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1989. 210pp, cloth, $24.95
ISBN 0-19-540681-8. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Grace Shaw.

Volume 18 Number 1
1990 January

My first response to the early pages of Sir John A. was ennui. We've been there. Who really needs this? Does this ground have to be covered again? But as I laughed and cried my way through the book, I thought, of course, we do need this. John A. is us: courageous, crafty, resourceful, visionary. No politician to this very day has inspired more loyalty and been more loved (and often roundly hated too - forgiveness there must be in families). This chame­leon-like man is our history. Our roots have been formed by his design: British, monarchical, parliamentary, centralized, but from sea to sea.

The book, familiar and fun, consists of charming little stories of personal and political life, chronological but overlap­ping, cataloguing Macdonald's life, times, attitudes, monumental achieve­ments and errors in judgement con­nected by comment and explanation. Surprises are in store for those who already know it all and a richness of in­formation and insight for those with little background.

The varied sections include cam­paign and drinking stories, Pacific scandal and Riel Rebellion, Fenians, native people and of course parliamen­tary life told with wisdom and gleaned from speeches, letters, news clippings, biographies and histories.

Some would think that John A. would turn in his grave today at the directions his party has taken. In 1891, he denounced reciprocity with the U.S. as "veiled treason" and a "sellout." In the introduction, the editors have stirred some controversy by drawing some interesting parallels between the early days of our nation and its more mature years.

Smith and McLeod commented that E.B. Biggar's Anecdotal Life has been out of print for nearly a hundred years and it was time for an updated perspective, and of course they are right. This is every Canadian's book; read and savour. Sir John A. is a must for all libraries.

Grace Shaw, King Edward Campus, Vancouver, B.C.
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