Friday, April 16, 2010

New Books: Boyko on Bennett

Shelf-browsing at my local Chapters, I'm struck by the continually shrinking space the store allots to Canadian history. (Still a couple of my titles, however; somebody loves me.) Seems as if without Pierre Berton to spark the whole category, there is less buzz, fewer sales, ... and less space being allotted. The world may "need more Canada" as Chapters' slogan has it, but my local big box seems to think it doesn't need so much of it in the Canadian history section.

So I was cheered to see a substantial display of a new biography of R.B. Bennett on those otherwise shrinking shelves. R. B. Bennett wouldn't strike most people as the stuff of bestsellers. True, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams a novel about Joey Smallwood's childhood, was an international hit a few years ago, so anything is possible. But Canadian political biography, particularly of that particular unsuccessful rightwing stuffed shirt from the 1930s, still seems a hard category to sell.

John Boyko's new Bennett: the Rebel who Challenged and Changed Canada seems determined to change that image of Bennett. I haven't read it, so I'm not convinced yet, but the book has a cheeky opening: "Franklin Roosevelt was the R.B. Bennett of the United States." Boyko teaches at Lakefield school near Peterborough. His book is just out in a handsome trade book edition from Key Porter, with a foreword by John English and some impressive blurbs. Look for it.
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