by Charlotte Gray
I’m really having trouble with this one. I mean, it’s not even that it’s difficult for me to express my feelings toward it––it’s really good––but it’s just that I’m having a hard time talking about it, bringing any useful commentary into the review. Usually, with any of my reviews destined for The Walleye, as this one is, I tend to start with my longer online review and sort of chop off pieces until I wind up with something focused and worthy of publication. This time around, I found myself working in reverse, making my bare-bones review and building it up for an online post, and I really hope that by the end of it all it doesn’t come across as an attempt to fatten the review without really adding any content, but I guess we’ll see what happens.
The Promise of Canada consists of a set of biographies of nine Canadians who left their mark on the nation. Starting with the birth of the Confederation with Georges Étienne-Cartier, Gray moves through the years, tracing people impacting our understanding of history (Harold Innis), culture (Emily Carr), and civil rights (Bertha Wilson), up to modern times. In doing so, she paints a convincing picture that each individual significantly influenced how we perceive ourselves and our nation, helping Canada assert its independence on an international stage as a young and growing country. And, even when I thought I knew about her subjects, such as with Margaret Atwood or Tommy Douglas, Gray was able to reveal so much their lives, their work, and their impact.
It’s amazing how much Gray is able to demonstrate about such a broad subject by taking focused explorations into the lives of individuals––even such influential ones as she discusses. The Promise of Canada is truly an inspiring work, and it comes highly recommended.