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Lester, Edward.

Introduced and edited by Brereton Greenhouse. Toronto, Dundurn Press, 1987. 222pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 1-55002-028-5. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Joan McGrath

Volume 16 Number 3
1988 May

It is almost like the working-out of an elaborately plotted mystery. A partially decayed diary is found in the ruins of an abandoned Yukon fort by a tourist some twenty-five years after it was tucked into the interstice of a wall. She preserves the diary for a further sixty years, then bequeaths the relic to the Public Archives.

Contained in the tattered diary are the musings of a "gentleman ranker," apparently a man avoiding some form of unpleasantness at home (very likely the attentions of an estranged wife identified only as "M"). He was a member of the Yukon Field Force, which existed only from 1898 to 1900 as a measure to maintain the Canadian sovereign presence in the Yukon gold-fields, which were flooded by so many volatile, arms-carrying American treasure-hunters that a takeover bid was feared.

This two-year hitch, an all-but-forgotten northern adventure, is documented in Edward tester's diary and in the dispatches of Faith Fenton (pseudonym of Faith Freeman), a reporter from the Toronto Globe who accompanied the small entourage of Victorian Order Nurses headed by nurse Georgia Powell (whose dispatches are also quoted).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this fascinating book is the description of the meticulous care with which the authorship of the unsigned manuscript was assigned, the correlation with the Fenton and Powell accounts, and the appended information regarding the eventual fates of those persons who could be traced. Seldom is such meticulously documented first-hand material describing times long past so immediate in flavour and so absorbingly readable. Can be highly recommended to students interested in the gold-rush era and its attendant social problems.

Joan McGrath, Toronto Board of Education, Toronto, Ont.
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