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Margaret Laurence

Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1989. 298pp, cloth, $26.95
ISBN 0-7710-4746-0. CIP.

Reviewed by S. A. McLennan McCue.

Volume 18 Number 2
1990 March

Dance on the Earth is unlike any other book Margaret Laurence ever wrote, and yet anyone familiar with her work could not doubt its author for a mo­ment. Her intelligence, her sensitivity, her caring, and, above all, her passion are in every paragraph.

To say that the book chronicles Margaret Laurence's life is to say so much less than what she set out to do and what she accomplishes, and yet Dance on the Earth does give us an accurate account of her life from earliest memory until just before she died. The constant thread in this rich tapestry is motherhood as seen through her eyes, the eyes of a child, the eyes of a mother.

Margaret Laurence's natural mother died when Margaret was four years old. She was then cared for by her aunt, who later became her step-mother (Mum). These two women (sisters) encouraged Margaret's talent and her individuality; Mum made sure that Margaret went to university - no small feat. They gave her a grounding and a strength that would carry her through the most difficult emotional struggles of her later life.

While this book does not give us a microscopic view of how Margaret Laurence wrote, we do get a sense of the larger picture - where the ideas came from, how the muse took hold of her so that she wrote in a way that even she was at a loss to explain. The ideas came from her life experiences but none of her novels was autobiographical; on that point she is quite firm.

Reading this book is like nothing one can imagine so much as sitting at Margaret Laurence's kitchen table in Lakefield and talking with her about her writing, her family, censorship, the peace movement, and all those things that were both important to and part of her.

S. A. McLennan McCue, Ottawa, Ont.
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