Review: The Promise of Canada: People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country

The Promise of Canada: People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country by Charlotte Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As an American who grew up in Michigan with Canadian roots on my Dad's side (with Canadian cousins still in the Toronto area), and with a husband who also has family in Canada, I've always been a little more interested in Canada and her history than perhaps most Americans. So, at the airport on the way out of Canada on a trip in 2018 I picked this book up and added it to my large pile of "to be read" books, which I'm only now starting to make a dent in. It was written to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation by Charlotte Gray - "one of Canada's pre-eminent biographers and historians" (according to the cover bio).

Charlotte Gray's way into telling the story of the Promise of Canada is through biographies of people she feels most embody what it means to be Canadian, or who most helped to inspire or help build the things that bind Canadians together. I really enjoyed this book and found the author's style very readable. It's not a dry history or an academic excursion - it's a set of stories about Canada from an immigrant writer who clearly loves to tell stories. I found that I knew of (i.e., had heard of) many of the people she writes about, but loved the way she fleshed them out. Emily Carr and Bertha Wilson were two I'd not heard of before. Now, I think I'm in love with Carr's work - I can see why she's called the Canadian Georgia O'Keefe. And the story around Bertha Wilson and her role as the first woman on Canada's Supreme Court was very interesting. I didn't understand that Canada's Supreme Court didn't really function as the last word on Canadian law until 1982. It really drives home what a young country Canada is.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in Canada.

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