CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 2 . . . . September 14, 2007
The story of the Titanic, because of its awful fate, has long proved fascinating. The recent film helped to rekindle this fascination and make a new generation aware of the tragedy. Titanic: The Canadian Connection tells the tale of this sad ship through its preparation for sailing, the sailing, sinking, and the aftermath for both the survivors and for the recovered dead. It addition, it tries to make it a Canadian story by giving brief backgrounds of a number of Canadians who sailed on the ship and recounting their experiences.
Author Lanny Boutin is a freelance writer with considerable experience in writing for young readers. Her first two books, John Diefenbaker: The Outsider Who Refused To Quit and Mummies: All Wrapped Up were also written for young adolescents. Boutin also writes for adult magazines including Canadian Living and Canadian Geographic. Her style is suitable for the intended audience. Titanic: The Canadian Connection is recommended for recreational reading.
Boutin tells two stories in one. The first deals with the few Canadians who sailed on the ship, their backgrounds and experiences on the Titanic. The second is about the ship before and after its fateful collision with an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland on April 14, 1912. From the collision on, the book is exciting and grabs the reader's attention. One can easily imagine the shipboard scenes as the reality of what happened gradually sank in and the frightened passengers attempted to board one of the few lifeboats. Their incredulity that the magnificent ship was sinking is vividly described.
Boutin's treatment of the Canadian passengers she chose to include is superficial and uninteresting. One annoying habit was to refer to a number of these people by all of their Christian names. Thus Hud Allison is introduced as Hudson Joshua Creighton Allison and Bess Daniels as Bess Waldo Daniels. Since people are usually referred to by only one Christian name or their initials, this is not necessary and sounds artificial.
There are two errors in the book. The first is a spelling mistake. Boutin has Canadians board "the Cunard liner Fanconia" when she should have written Franconia. Cunard never had a ship named the Fanconia. The second is more serious. When providing background information on one of the Titanic's passengers, Boutin wrote, "the Northwest Rebellion had just been squashed, and the government was systematically stripping the Métis people of their land." This misinterprets the facts. After the rebellion, the Métis were given scrip, "a certificate issued as compensation for lost lands and entitling the bearer to 240 acres."* Unfortunately, many Métis sold the scrip and ended up landless, but the decision to sell was their own.
Titanic: the Canadian Connection has no index or glossary. It also contains no photographs. (There is a coloured reproduction of the ship on the cover.) This is a weakness. With many fine photographs of the Titanic available, the inclusion of a few would have added considerably to the book's appeal. There is a list of references and an Appendix which gives the names of all Canadians on the ship as well as those of other nationalities emigrating to Canada. There is an asterisk beside the names of those who perished. The Appendix, which separates passengers into First, Second, or Third Class, is enough to give readers the Canadian connection. Boutin's attempts to flesh out the lives and personalities of some Canadians is boring, the details too sketchy.
A problem young readers will have is Boutin's use of the imperial system of measurement, as in the above excerpt, instead of the metric system now used in Canada. Pounds and tons mean nothing to today's young readers. It would have been a simple matter to convert.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher lives in North Bay, ON.
* A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, W. J. Gage Limited, 1967, page 418.
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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.