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Simma Holt.

Toronto, Doubleday, c1982.
378pp, cloth, $22.95.
ISBN 0-385-17089-0.

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by Mary Fallis.

Volume 11 Number 1.
1983 January.

This book adds to the Diefenbaker saga a chapter unknown to the public.

It is the story of Edna May Brower, John Diefenbaker's wife for twenty-two years, a charming woman so effective in her role she was dubbed "the unelected Member of Parliament."

Simma Holt is an experienced writer used to doing careful research for her work. Among her published books is Terror in the Name of God, one of the definitive works on the Doukhobor in B.C. As well, she has served as an MP who got to know John Diefenbaker and other Canadian leaders personally in her time in Ottawa. She used all the printed materials available and interviewed some 300 people who had known Edna Diefenbaker during her life. She found that much memorabilia had been destroyed and that Diefenbaker himself had suppressed information about his first wife.

The book recreates vividly Saskatchewan life, as that province, from being part of the Territories, developed its status as a province: the two pioneer families each bringing a strong heritage with them, the sphere of the young prairie school teacher, the First World War, the flu epidemic, the early fascination with the automobile, involvement in politics as westerners. As the Diefenbakers take up their life in Ottawa there are glimpses of the James Sinclairs, Alvin Hamilton, Paul Martin, Mackenzie King, and other prominent politicians.

Simma Holt has very carefully recreated Edna Brower's life showing how, as John Diefenbaker's wife, she was an unerring counsellor of an ambitious rather rigid husband, effective in public relations and possessed of sound political judgment. Her life story with its tragic overtones exemplifies the price demanded of the politician's wife.

Facts and assumptions have been carefully footnoted. There are notes on the main contributors Holt interviewed. And there are twenty-eight pages of interesting glossy photographs. This is a very readable biography. For general collections in secondary school and adult libraries.

Mary Fallis, Prince George, BC.
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