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Claude Bissell

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1989. 171pp, cloth, $24.95
ISBN 0-8020-5814-0. CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by Joanne Peters.

Volume 18 Number 3
1990 May

When he died in 1984 at the age of seventy-six, Ernest Buckler had come to be acknowledged by many of Canada's writers as a spiritual godfather.

Claude Bissell first met Buckler in 1953, just after the publication of Buckler's major work, Mountain & the Valley (McClelland & Stewart, 1961), and Ernest Buckler Remembered is as much a personal memoir of their friendship as a literary biography. Extracts from Buckler and Bissell's correspondence (as well as from the voluminous correspondence Buckler carried on with others) and a number of photos, which trace the course of Buckler's career, provide an interesting counterpoint to the portrait of the farmer from the Annapolis Valley who was also a serious artist.

Bissell's discussion of Buckler's three main works - Mountain & the Valley, The Cruelest Month (McClelland & Stewart, 1977), and Ox Bells and Fireflies (McClelland & Stewart, 1974) - judiciously blends critical comment and biographical detail; furthermore, Bissell does not allow personal regard for his subject to stand in the way of criticism where warranted.

Ernest Buckler Remembered is not without its flaws. Bissell leaves more than a few unanswered questions about the personal life of his subject, although perhaps the bonds of friendship account for his reticence. As well, in places, uneven editing mars the flow of Bissell's crisp prose and there are strongly emotive passages that sometimes end rather abruptly.

However, as a memoir of a major Canadian author, Ernest Buckler Remembered is a delight to read. It would be a most valuable source for anyone who teaches Mountain & the Valley and would be worthwhile supplementary reading for students in the upper grades of high school, as well as post-secondary students and instructors with a special interest in Canadian literature.

Joanne Peters, Sisler High School, Winnipeg, Man.
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