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Anne Chislett
Toronto, Playwrights Canada Press, 1993. 141pp, paper, $10.95
ISBN 0-88754-497-5. CIP

Subject Heading:
Canada-History-Rebellion, 1837-1838-Drama.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up

Reviewed by Gina Varty

Volume 22 Number 3
1994 May/June

The future of Canada is at stake: a government removed from the ordinary citizen, patronage appointments, NAFTA, and an economy devastated through inept stewardship. Sounds like 1994, but the year is 1838, a year after the Mackenzie rebellion, a time when corruption, rebel reformers and "yankee" notions were commonplace.

Anne Chislett, winner of the Governor General's Award for Quiet in the Land (Coach House Press, 1983) and bi-coastally educated (Memorial University of Newfoundland and University of British Columbia), has written an inspiring, colourful and witty historical drama that would interest even the most ardent supporter of the belief that Canadian history is dull and boring.

This eleven-actor play (four females, seven males) is based on a book called The Wait Letters published in 1842 that tells the true story of a wife's efforts to save her rebel husband's life. In Yankee Notions we meet Sarah and Maria, articulate heroines who join forces to save father and husband, rebels who fought to stop the Family Compact, create a parliament and end the situation where "people are terrified into Toryism."

The action of the play never stops, with one scene blending into the next. As the story unfolds, one becomes caught up in the struggles between Upper and Lower Canada, in the American threat, and in the difficulty of travel. Upper Canada's attorney general, John Beverly Robinson, Governor General Sir George Arthur, and the Lord High Commissioner, the earl of Durham, are infused with life. Although the names may be different and 156 years may have passed, the situation and the sentiments speak for today.

Highly recommended.

Gina Varty is the librarian with the Audio Visual Educational Library, United Church of Canada, in Edmonton, Alberta
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