Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Grind Writing group & Book Review

January 5, 2023

I interview Margo Lamont, founder of the Vancouver-based Grind

Wrters’ group in the current issue of Senior Line magazine

(Winter 2022)and review “The Aging of Aquarius: Igniting

Passion and Purpose as an Elder” by Helen Wilkes.

The magazine of the Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater

Vancouver is available at no cost

on line (click link) and in print at venues around the city.

Alone in the Great Unknown – book review

December 8, 2022

by Janet Nicol

For my full review of this remarkable memoir by Caroll Simpson, see BC Studies, winter 2022 (click on hyperlink below)

Secret Schools

September 22, 2022

Book Review by Janet Nicol

Secret Schools:  True Stories of Bravery, Ingenuity, and the Determination to Learn, by Heather Camlot and Illustrated by Erin Taniguchi, Owlkids Books, Toronto, 2022

What if the secret you were keeping was going to school?  This is the question Toronto-based author Heather Camlot poses in a fascinating book aimed at middle grade readers.  Camlot has researched and written fifteen true accounts about ‘underground’ classrooms around the world at various periods of history.   Thirty-three linocut prints by Vancouver printmaker and artist Erin Taniguchi illustrate each story.  

For the full review in BC Teacher magazine (Sept/Oct 2022) go to the BC Teacher’s Federation website.

Click on “What’s Happening”…and then “Teacher magazine”

Front-Wave Boomers – a book review

August 17, 2022


Written by Gillian Ranson

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

What does growing old—and “very” old—look like for a generation of Canadians born between 1946 and 1965? It’s a question Alberta-based journalist and sociologist Gillian Ranson sets out to answer in her highly readable and informative book, Front-wave Boomers.

Ranson is among the 25 percent of Canadians known as baby boomers and her first-hand experience and empathy serves to enhance this research. Besides delivering plenty of statistics, comparative studies and footnotes, the author interviewed more than 100 people of diverse backgrounds, between the ages of 62 and 77.

See the full review in Senior Line magazine, Summer 2022, available on line at the link below and in print (Vancouver) at no cost.

Deadly Neighbours/To Be A Warrior

June 24, 2022

Book Reviews by Janet Nicol

Reimer, Chad. Deadly Neighbours: A Tale of Colonialism, Cattle Feuds, Murder and Vigilantes in the Far West. Qualicum Beach, BC: Caitlin Press, 2022. 216 pp. $26.00 paper.

Deadly Neighbours opens a window into the relationship between immigrant settlers and the Sema:th (Sumas) and Sto:lo people residing in British Columbia’s Sumas Prairie and Nooksack Valley during the 1870s and 1880s.  Several conflicts are examined with a focus on the lynching of Louis Sam, a 15 year old Sema:th boy.  Extensive historical context surrounding this crime is included along with details about the long-term impact.

Enhancing the narrative is the author’s knowledge of the landscape, drawn from his previous study, Before We Lost the Lake:  A Natural and Human History of Sumas Valley, with its focus on the draining of Sumas Lake for farm land in the 1920s by settlers in Abbotsford.   The lake had been a vital resource for Indigenous people for centuries.  (Notably in 2021, three years after the publication of Reimer’s prescient account, Abbotsford was subject to devastating flooding and the lake “came back.”)  While Deadly Neighbours covers a shorter time frame, important stories emerge about settlers’ lives and tensions within their own communities and toward their Indigenous neighbours.  In both books, Reimer has chosen key incidents—the draining of a lake and the lynching of a young Indigenous man—to paint a larger picture of BC’s colonial past.

So begins my book review of ‘Deadly Neighbours.’ For the full review go to the BC Studies website.

Pullan, Brandon. To Be a Warrior: The Adventurer Life and Mysterious Death of Billy Davidson. Victoria: Rocky Mountain Books, 2021. 272 pp. $28.oo paper.

To Be A Warrior chronicles the life of wilderness adventurer Billy Davidson (1947-2003), a rock climbing mountaineer and ocean kayaker who spent the last thirty years of his life alone on various small islands in British Columbia’s Inside Passage.   He left behind an ex-partner, Lori Anderson and their son, Westerly, both interviewed for this book, along with other family members and friends. Excepts from Davidson’s journals and letters are quoted throughout the text.  Also included are photographs, illustrated maps and colour-plated reproductions of his stylized oil landscapes.  The author, an outdoor journalist, does not provide footnotes or a bibliography, however he does offer a long-held passion for his subject, describing Davidson as enigmatic, legendary and a mentor.

So begins my book review of ‘To Be a Warrior.’ For the full review, check out the BC Studies website.

Map of Sumas Lake before it was drained in the 1920s. Chad Reimer’s books explore the Sumas Prairie landscape and people.

October 29, 2021

Able to Lead: Disablement, Radicalism, and the Political Life of E.T. Kingsley, Ravi Malhotra and Benjamin Isitt

Book Review by Janet Nicol

Eugene Thornton Kingsley, an influential socialist in early British Columbia, was 33 years old when he adopted his revolutionary stance.  Employed as a brakeman on a railway in rural Montana in 1890, he fell between two moving train cars and lost both legs.  During a lengthy recovery in hospital, Kingsley read the books of Karl Marx.  After his discharge, he returned home to his wife and two young sons equipped with a pair of wooden prosthesis and a cane.  Two years later Kingsley inexplicably left his family and moved to California.  Authors Ravi Malhotra, a disability rights and law professor, and Benjamin Isitt, a historian, examine Kingsley’s ensuing activism through the lens of ableism, law, and the socialist movement.

So begins this review of a remarkable British Columbian. Full review available on line at BC Studies and at a later date, in the BC Studies print edition. (Link below)

Victoria Unbuttoned: A Red-Light History of BC’s Capital City

April 30, 2021

A Book Review

by Janet Nicol

Linda J. Eversole’s second foray into the world of white female prostitution is now available in “Victoria Unbuttoned” as she continues her dogged research into the biographies of marginalized women. Eversole builds on her previous account about Stella, the “unrepentant madam” of early Victoria. My review in BC Studies is accessed at the link below and is now available in the journal’s print issue, Summer 2021.

Book review – Four Umbrellas

March 28, 2021

Four Umbrellas:  A Couple’s Journey into Young-Onset Alzheimer’s by June Hutton and Tony Wanless  Dundurn Press, 2020  

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Caregiving for a spouse – as opposed to a parent – has its own specific stories and heartbreaks. June Hutton, a Vancouver-based novelist and teacher, has experienced both. The author’s mother had Alzheimer’s in her final years and then her spouse, Tony Wanless unknowingly was struck with “young-onset” Alzheimer’s prior to his retirement from the Vancouver Province, aged 53. Fourteen years would pass before Wanless received a diagnosis in 2017, allowing him and Hutton to fully understand his inexplicable episodes— such as when Wanless packed a suitcase with four umbrellas.

So begins my review of ‘Four Umbrellas’ for Senior Line magazine, March 2021 issue. The magazine is available in print at various locations in Vancouver and on-line at the Senior Line magazine website. (You can also click on hyperlink ‘Senior Line Archive’ below book cover image on this post.)

A Great Revolutionary Wave

December 3, 2020

 A Great Revolutionary Wave:  Women and the Vote in British Columbia,  Lara Campbell, Vancouver:  UBC Press, 2020.

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Lara Campbell’s concise and engaging account re-thinks the history of the women’s vote in British Columbia as she follows the origins of the suffrage movement in the 1880s to the passage of provincial legislation granting white women the vote in 1917.   By extending the scope of these historic benchmarks and examining issues such as the suffrage movement’s racial exclusionary stance, social class alliances and global influences, the author offers a fresh look at our past.

Published in BC History magazine, Winter 2020

Book review: Passion and Persistence

February 8, 2020

Passion and Persistence: Fifty Years of the Sierra Club in British Columbia, 1969-2019 by Diane Pinch. Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, BC, 2019.

Book review by Janet Nicol

This book chronicles the many ways Sierra Club members have campaigned to protect the wilderness, from advocating for a park rather than a mountain resort to confronting the global climate crisis. Author Diane Pinch, a long time Sierra Club of BC (SCBC) member, offers an important aspect of our provincial history, employing prose that is engaging and accessible and using first hand accounts, archival club materials, maps and photographs.

For the full review check out  the upcoming issue of BC History, Spring, 2020.