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review 2018-04-09 19:31
A History of Canada in Ten Maps (Shoalts)
A History of Canada in Ten Maps: Epic Stories of Charting a Mysterious Land - Adam Shoalts

This work of popular history by a young man who is a "modern explorer" himself is understandably chiefly centred around exploration maps of territory now within Canada's boundaries. It has a fairly informal tone, but full scholarly apparatus. I enjoyed the thoughtful preface and afterword material, and the summaries of the exploits of various famous explorers were highly readable, with many interesting anecdotes. I also thought the tone successfully avoided any suggestion of hero-worship, and also acknowledged in a timely way the major contributions of named and described indigenous allies and collaborators, some of whom, as expedition members, ventured nearly as far away from their homes as the Europeans or Canadians they assisted. The main disappointment of the volume is one that was presumably out of the author's control: the reproductions of the maps, although coloured and glossy, are constrained to too small a size by the book's standard format to be really enjoyed. A coffee-table format would have been better (but probably too expensive). One of the chief victims of this shortcoming is the Thomson map (one I am very familiar with, having worked alongside the original for many years), but that huge, faded map would likely have been chiefly illegible even in a much larger reproduction: it is largely illegible close up, in its original.


This is not groundbreaking history, nor is it really cartographic analysis, though there is some discussion of the history and techniques of cartography in the preliminaries. It's a sesquicentennial project, aimed at a general audience, and, if my quite vivid recent memories of its tales about the Vikings, about Cartier and Champlain and Hearne and Mackenzie and Thomson and Franklin, are any indication, it has certainly done its job of raising awareness of the role exploration and mapping played in the early definition of the boundaries of the state we now call Canada. The roles of other forces (war, politics and statecraft) are, legitimately I think, largely left aside. As others have remarked, the one chapter on the Fort Erie battle during the war of 1812 seems a little forced and out of place. But then military history is not something I read with pleasure in any case.


Shoalts also seems to be quite an interesting guy, and I recommend a browse through his website after finishing this book.

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review 2017-09-17 03:37
A Life Well Lived - Ralph Sausmarez Carey

As stated on the back cover, "[t]his book is a wonderful compilation of memories, stories, letters, newspaper articles and" [photos] about the life of Ralph Sausmarez Carey (1898-1976). 

Carey, a Canadian from Winnipeg, joined the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in November 1917 and received pilot training in Canada, the U.S., and Britain. He went on to serve as a fighter pilot in France with No. 73 Squadron, Royal Air Force (RAF), flying Sopwith Camel fighters over the Western Front in the latter stages of the First World War in 1918. Upon returning to Canada in May 1919, he studied at the University of Manitoba, where he earned a B.A. degree. He then went on to earn a law degree and briefly practiced law in the 1920s. 

The bulk of Carey's career would be with the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), a major retail establishment where he worked his way into the upper ranks of management. Aside from his service with the Canadian Army as an administrative officer in Ottawa during the Second World War, he spent 36 years with HBC, retiring in 1965. 

What makes this book truly engaging to the reader are: a transcription of Carey's First World War experiences (which he had recorded on tape; his wife preserved it for their children); the personal recollections of Carey's children, former colleagues, relatives, and friends which bring a wider human dimension to the man that was Ralph Sausmarez Carey; and --- Chapter 5, which contains Carey's background and the backgrounds of his parents and siblings. 

All in all, "A LIFE WELL LIVED" is a nice book to read.

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review 2016-12-12 15:51
Canada's Titanic: The History and Legacy of the RMS Empress of Ireland - Charles River Editors

Good little history of the shipwreck. Nicely illustrated.

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review 2016-06-16 00:18
Somebody's Daughter: Inside an International Prostitution Ring - Phonse Jessome

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                Recently there has been much debate about what the correct response to prostitution should be.  Should sex work be made legal?  Should the buying of intercourse be outlawed but not the selling?  A total ban perhaps?


                I don’t know.  My opinion changes and changes.  And damn, I don’t know.


                One thing that practically everyone can agree on, at least I hope so, is that underage prostitution needs to end.  Though detailing a case from the mid-1990s, Jessome’s Somebody’s Daughter is a good example of way this should be so.  


                Jessome’s book details the investigation into a prostitution/trafficking ring that funneled girls from Nova Scotia and other areas into Montreal and Toronto.  The ring was controlled largely by men from the Halifax area.  Jessome is mostly concerned with following the outcome of the investigation as well as the struggles of some of the young girls to leave prostitution behind.  He also chronicles how the young girls became prostitutes and what their lives were like while in “The Game”.


                While Jessome does present a brief outline of the rise of prostitution in the area, and hints at the vast amount of money that can be earned, the focus is primary on the more personal stories.  This is hardly surprising because personal stories have an impact that raw statics do not have.  I did find myself wishing at times that I had better grasp of the finical situation.  How much in raw numbers did the various women in each “stable “bring in, for instance.  That aside, Jessome’s writing is gripping.  He does not make the young girls into hapless and passive victims.  The ones that he chooses to follow come from varying circumstances, so you are not hearing the same stories over and over again.

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review 2016-03-23 18:48
Franklin: Tragic Hero of Polar Navigation - Andrew Lambert

This is not a biography. Its more a picture of the scientific and political communities around the Franklin voyage. So I would not start here for learning about Franklin.

2.5 to 3 depending on the mood. There is something about the tone that doesn't quite work for me. But the information and connections were interesting. However, if I didn't already know the basic facts, I think would have been lost at points.

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