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Donald Swainson

Kingston (Ont.), Quarry Press, 1989. 208pp, paper, $12.95
ISBN 919627-29-3. CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by Allan S. Evans.

Volume 18 Number 2
1990 March

Like its subject, Swainson's biogra­phy has stood the test of time well. Perhaps this is why the new edition bears only superficial changes from the original. First published in 1971, this is still a highly informative, albeit quick read on our first prime minister.

After a very brief sketch of Macdonald's youth and family back­ground, Swainson devotes the remain­der of this work to Macdonald's political career, which, incidentally, began at the age of twenty-eight. The final two-thirds of the book concentrates on his career from Confederation onward.

Swainson's book is surprisingly thorough considering its brevity - testimony to the author's skill and economy of words. His prose is concise, straightforward and unadorned. Swain­son is a master of generalization but is not glib, superficial or imprecise. Fur­thermore, despite the scope of his undertaking, he manages to place all of the important events in their proper perspective and also to offer a fair degree of analysis and insight in the process. In this, the author's treatment is quite fair and even-handed. He makes no effort to conceal or defend.

Macdonald's weaknesses and failures. Still, the overall emphasis is on the magnitude and sheer number of the Old Chieftain's undeniable accomplish­ments.

Senior history students at the secon­dary school or community college level should be the optimum users of this reference. It provides a clear overview of both the drama that was Macdonald's political career and his exciting era, which supplied such a productive stage.

Allan S. Evans, North York, Ont.
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