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Nihmey, John and Stuart Foxman.

Ottawa, NIVA Publishing, c1986. 222pp, cloth, $19.55, ISBN 0-921043-00-7. Distributed by Macmillan. CIP

Grade 7 and up
Reviewed by E. Robson

Volume 14 Number 4
1986 July

On May 27th, 1934, the Dionne quintuplets were born, with the help of Dr. Allan Defoe, at Corbeil in northern Ontario; thus began a social phenomenon that became a five hundred million dollar industry for the province. People came by the thousands to witness the first ever surviving quintuplets in their private hospital and grounds removed from their parents and family. The children were controlled by a board of guardians headed by Defoe and controlled by Ontario premier Mitchell Hepburn, neither of whom cared how the parents felt. It took eight years for Oliva and Elzira Dionne to gain custody of their children, but by then the damage was done and the quints' future life was to be a sad one.

Authors John Nihmey, president of a communications firm, and Stuart Foxman, a writer with the company, researched materials of the time and interviewed many involved in the story, including Mort Fellman, the local newspaperman who helped turn the tide of public opinion against the exhibition at Quintland. This is a novel in which all principal characters are real, but secondary ones are fictitious. The events are actual happenings of the period. This novel is mainly the story of the struggle of the Dionne parents; at no time does the reader experience the story from the quintuplets' point of view. The doctor and the premier are not the heroes that they appeared to be at the time. Although the book has the subtitle "a true-life fairy tale," in no way do the hero and heroine live happily ever after, although the custody battle is won. The manipulation of the multibirths by both the doctor and government is cause for great anguish.

The first chapter concerning the woes of the Chicago World's Fair and its attempt to put the family on display to increase attendance does not make a good introduction to this moving novel, but the rest of the story is well placed and effective.

The novel is easily read by any adult or student from grade 7 up and adds a new dimension to a study of Canada during the depression. It is too bad this was not written fifty years ago; perhaps the power of the story could have prevented the tragedy of the Dionne quintuplets.

E. Robson, Winston Churchill C.I., Scarborough. Ont.
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