CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Norman Lee

Surrey (B.C.), Heritage Publishing, 1991. 78pp, paper, $7.95
ISBN 0-919214-87-8. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Howard Hurt.

Volume 19 Number 5
1991 October

Norman Lee was the oldest son of an English vicar. In 1882, he left a comfort­able apprenticeship in an architectural office for the lure of the Cariboo gold fields, where he quickly became a rancher and a trader.

He seemed to have no problem adjusting to ranch life, but isolation made the economics of cattle raising precarious. Therefore, when a new rush began to the Klondike, he seized on what he thought was a realistic chance to make a small fortune by driving two hundred head of cattle some 1,500 miles northwards through the wilderness. This scheme turned into a disaster but it also seemed to be an experience that marked the life of Norman Lee and gave him a lasting reputation as an intrepid adventurer.

The details of the expedition became known during the 1950s when a CBC broadcaster met his widow and was shown the diary. This was published by Mitchell Press in I960. This reprint is identical except for new covers.

The story is prefaced by an introduc­tion by the radio personality, Eileen Laurie, and the text editor, Gordon Elliott, but the real meat consists of some sixty sparse pages of diary entries by Lee that he rewrote after his return.

Because the writer glosses over such hardships as being drenched and frozen day after day and the obvious difficul­ties involved with moving a herd of cattle through quagmires and across rivers, it is often necessary to use a good deal of imagination between the lines. In fact, it is likely impossible for anyone from the 1990s really to comprehend how it would feel to be at the mercy of such brutal forces as a mountain wilderness, a northern climate, and a primitive economy with no safety nets of any sort. The self-reliance, trust in buddies, humour and acceptance of perverse fortune were truly amazing.

In any case, this briefly outlined adventure is an excellent case study of the hardships faced by Canada's pioneers. It should be useful reading in many areas of the social studies curricu­lum.

Howard Hurt, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works