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Hollohan, Francis G.

St. John's, Jesperson Press, c1985. 136pp, paper, $10.95, ISBN 0-929592-35-0. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Joan M. Payzant

Volume 14 Number 4
1986 July

This is a well-written book in six chapters, with chronology, appendices, bibliography, and index. The author, Francis G. Hollohan, received assistance from the Canada Council and the cultural affairs division of the department of culture, recreation and youth of the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. As a reviewer, I found the title, Albert Perlin: A Biography, misleading. It is not a true biography, for we learn very little about Albert Perlin as a human being. A better title might have been, Newfoundland History and Politics in the Twentieth Century Seen Through the Eyes of Albert Perlin.

Albert Perlin was the talented eldest child of a St. John's Jewish family and a school chum of Joseph Smallwood at Bishop Feild College. He and Smallwood were friends throughout their lives, and, after the latter became premier of Newfoundland, he chose Perlin to go to federal provincial conferences as his advisor. From 1920 until 1971, Albert Perlin was a journalist with The Evening Telegram, The Daily News, and two magazines that he himself founded, The Observer's Weekly and, later, The Newfoundland Record. In his daily column, "In the News" (under the pseudonym "The Wayfarer"), and in his CBC weekly radio program, "Notes and Comments," Perlin commented on Newfoundland happenings and moulded the opinions of his readers and listeners. He was an anti-Confederate, although he realized that family allowances, old age pensions, and unemployment insurance would tempt the majority of Newfoundlanders to side with his colleague, Joseph Smallwood. Once Confederation had become a reality, he urged his readers to accept it and make it work.

Perlin was the author of The Story of Newfoundland (s.n., 1959), a best-selling (twenty thousand copies) history for the general reader. As a much sought after public speaker, one of his talks, 'The Newfoundland Story," was given before the members of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, and forms an appendix to the book.

Perlin married Vera Crosbie, daughter of Sir John C. Crosbie, in 1926. She was a remarkable lady, who contributed much to Newfoundland in her work for mentally and physically handicapped people. The Perlins had three children, but this biography is totally lacking in any description of their family life.

The author has done a masterful job of tracing the career of Albert Perlin and explaining his viewpoints on controversial issues in Newfoundland. He leaves no doubt in the reader's mind about Perlin's contributions to his native province, and one is pleased to learn that, before he died in 1978, Albert Perlin received many honours. Memorial University granted him an honorary degree, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada, and he received an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History. This book is recommended as a worthwhile addition to collections of Newfoundland political history and biography.

Joan M. Payzant, Dartmouth, N.S.
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