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George Musk.

Toronto, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, c1981.
272pp, cloth, $39.95.
ISBN 0-03-920291-7.

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by John D. Crawford.

Volume 10 Number 4.
1982 November.

This is a well-produced and profusely illustrated book. It is divided into four parts, the first of which is a company history. The remaining three, accounting for some two-thirds of the length, are concerned mainly with ships. Indeed, it is important to recognize that the central figures in this book are the ships. In this respect it is different from such works as Ravenscrag, the story of the Allan Line, and similar books in which people play the major roles.

The book contains a mass of detail. This feature harbours certain dangers. One of these dangers is a tendency to include items of questionable importance. Musk has given much information, which, if not esoteric is not likely to be of value to readers other than those with a consuming interest in the shipping line itself. Such details as the names of the no doubt admirable ladies who presided over the launching of particular ships, and the recipients of silver salvers and gold-topped canes could well have been omitted. On the other hand, there is much detail of great interest. These include the arrangements for assisting Mennonite migration to Canada and some of the extraordinary features of the Line's wartime activities. An example of the latter concerns the many thousands of Chinese who were shipped from China to France to work in labour battalions during the First World War.

A more general theme that emerges is the important relationship which grew between the developing shipping lines and international postal services before mail service was taken over in large part by airlines. Ships were designed and sailing times set to meet the demands of the postal authorities. Presumably the mail service today is lower in the scale of importance than was the case in earlier years.

The amount of space devoted to histories of individual ships, sundry appendices, and fleet lists, make this a book whose chief merit is that of a reference source, and in that capacity it should be of value in libraries at the senior secondary level and above. I would close by returning to the illustrations. These provide a wonderful panoramic view of a century of developments in ship design. Beginning with the practical, we move on through the stately and distinguished, to the functional and awesome, which have their own particular attraction.

John D. Crawford, Frank Hobbes J. H. S., Victoria, BC.
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