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Raddall, Thomas H.

Porters Lake (N.S.), Pottersfield Press, c1986. 141pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-919001-32-7. (Atlantic Classics). CIP

Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by Tony Cosier

Volume 15 Number 2
1987 March

Pottersfield Press has fitted together this addition to its Atlantic Classics series by pulling out ten previously uncollected stories from the Thomas Raddall papers in the Dalhousie University archives. It is interesting to consider these stories in historical perspective. Their original dates of release range from the time of Raddall's first publications as an unknown young bookkeeper in the late twenties to his final story as a retiring professional surrounded by accolades in the fifties. The stories were originally targeted for such popular magazines as Weekend Magazine, Madean's, Blackwood's, and The Saturday Evening Post. As such, they have a casual readability that remains palatable today, while retaining a quaint old-fashioned flavour.

The volume provides historical perspective in another sense. The stories are set in different periods. The opening piece captures the enthusiasm of Samuel de Champlain for an uncharted continent. The second selection contrasts British and American soldiers supervising the expulsion of the Acadians. Later stories take the reader through the turn of the century into the modern era. Raddall keeps a strong sense of local colour in the forefront of his tales. He studies local working people: travelling payroll clerks for lumber companies, timber cruisers, lighthouse operators. He places these people in sharply defined settings. He stresses characters who have adapted to their environment, usually by contrasting them to newcomers, intruders, or just plain fools.

The stories are not formally crafted. Only "The Miracle" could pass for technically well made. Yet, every one of the pieces in the book in one way or another has charm. The tale of a fiddler calming a riotous crowd of drunken loggers is preposterously delightful. The deep woods setting of "The Lower Learning" is entrancing. I believe in Miss Fesant's ballet fantasies as much as I appreciate poor Greta's determination to get back to her child through a snowstorm. Raddall constantly instils a buoyant sense of goodwill. Every story gives the impression that the author enjoyed writing it. The enthusiasm should rub off on most readers.

Tony Cosier, Confederation H.S., Nepean, Ont.
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