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Edited by Douglas Gibson
Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1991. 352pp, cloth, $27.95, ISBN 0-7710-5593-5. CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up

Reviewed by Joan McGrath

Volume 20 Number 4
1992 September

Now, surely, when Canada is apparently a nation in jeopardy, is the time to re-examine the works of Hugh MacLennan, an author among the first to attempt to define the soul of this country and identify the divisive forces that threaten its unity, "... this nation undiscovered by the rest of the world and unknown to itself, these people neither American nor English, nor even sure of what they want to be, this unborn mightiness, this question-mark, this future for himself, and for God knew how many millions of mankind!"

Here is a selection of MacLennan's work, including his poetry, essays, journalism and travel writing. The best known and most admired of his prolific output are his novels. This book's samplings of Barometer Rising, Two Solitudes, Each Man's Son, The Watch That Ends the Night, The Return of the Sphinx, and Voices in Time will tempt new fans and old to read the entire novels for a look backward at MacLennan's concerned and thoughtful analysis of what he saw as the role of the French-English conflict in Canadian life. As Paul Macrae decides in Barometer Rising, "It was a heritage he had no intention of losing," and MacLennan's plainly hoped that all of us would come to the same realization.

Not all of his work withstands the test of time as well as his reflections on the meaning of being Canadian do. Some readers may feel that his portrayal of female characters lacks the naturalness and believability he is able to create in his more three-dimensional males; however, his work must be considered in the framework of MacLennan's times, the 1930s and later, rather than the present day.

This collection demonstrates the range and versatility of one of Canada's seminal writers, one of the few Canadian authors of his time to be aware of Canada's special character, who made the rest of the literary world acknowledge a new, a Canadian voice.

The late Joan McGrath was a library consultant with the Board of Education for the City of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario

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


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