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• His work with Artists for Peace and Justice
• UN Ambassadorship for The World Food Programme
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Hour Books: Raisin Wine...
Raisin Wine: A Boyhood in a Different Muskoka is the story of James Bartleman, the former Lieutenant General of Ontario. I was intrigued by this book, as I am by most biographies, so I sailed right in after finding it on display at the library with an assortment of other Canadiana books on a table preparing patrons for Canada Day.
What I expected was the story of James Bartleman and how he eventually made his way to the Ontario Lieutenant Govenor's chair but what I didn't expect is that the book would be written as a novel, in a third person omniscient voice and with few proper names used in the book. The main character was refered to as "the boy, while other characters were referred to as "the boy's mother/father/brother/sister". This was not your average run of the mill biography, it spans only a few years in the fifties, though the years covered were probably the most formative years of anyone's life, when children were just discovering the teen years and what lies beyond the family circle. It's always interesting to read how someone who attained Bartleman's stature later in life, was obsessed with ice cream and comics from the general store or how he helped the family's income by collecting scrapmetal and selling fish to his neighbours as a child.
This book also paints an interesting picture of Muskoka as it grew into the tourist haven it is today. Focussed around Port Carling, the book speaks of how the region grew from the disappointment of the first settlers and the displacement of the First Nations to the growth of cottages and summer homes owned by the people from the "South" (Toronto). With the conditions of reserves currently in the news due to the swine flu outbreaks, I found it rather depressing to read that nothing much has changed in that regard since the time frame of the book, that some First Nation reserves still struggle for basic infrastructure and needs, while battling the same demons such as substance abuse.
As soon as I finished reading this book, I recommended it to a friend who lives in Muskoka. It is a compelling read, of a little boy growing into a teenager and the dynamics that shaped who he is today.
Please check out James Bartleman's apperance on The Hour. Like the book, this interview is very compelling.