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380 The Canadian Historical Review did read with Ellen'.s as 'I have wonderfully accomodating [sic] eyes like an old pussy-cat' (232). Her letters consistently effused warmth, strength and, sometimes, humour. Catharine Parr Traill was a remarkable woman in that she had nine children, wrote seventeen books, and lived to be ninety-eight years old. Her selected correspondence from about 500 letters has been reproduced in an informative way that is historically accurate and enlightening , so that readers not only can be introduced to this wonderful character but are reminded of the difficulties our forbears endured before technology and modern medicine eased life's tasks and strains. LAUREL SEFTON MACDOWELL University of Toronto Haven't Any News: Ruby's Letters from the Fifties. Edited by EDNA STAEBLER . Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press 1995· pp. x, 165. $18.95 For some time now the 1950s have been fashionable. Historians, many of us boomer products of that decade, are among the most fascinated. Immersed in those years after the Second World War, we seek the roots of nostalgia or malaise, explanations for our postmodern condition . Fortunately, those who were adults during that transitional decade are often still around to set us straight about the complexities of the lives they led. Saved and edited by her sister, Ruby's letters do just that. While modestly titled, Haven't Any News, they challenge aware readers now, just as they must have Ruby's family earlier, to understand the limitations and the possibilities of life for a married, middle-class, white woman in Barrie, Ontario. In her Afterword, Marlene Kadar, a scholar of 'life writing,' identifies as central to the narrative five primary 'story-themes,' those of love for and anxiety about food, childraising, women's work, animals, and personal appearance, as well as three 'covert themes' of longings for money, creativity, and companionship. Certainly these issues crowd the page and reveal that the 'letters are not only the site of communication, but of self-presentation and affirmation'(164). The distinctions between the two categories and among the eight themes appear artificial to this historian. As she tries to negotiate the various roles she has to play as daughter, sister, wife, mother, neighbour, and worker, Ruby's life seems, finally, all ofa piece. Her letters move quickly from one subject or theme to another, as she juggles diverse responsibilities and tries to be more than their sum. Her boomer offspring, a daughter and a son, not to mention her insurance agent husband, are anchored in the middle-class community of Ontario by her labours, both paid and unpaid . As she grows older, entering menopause, Ruby writes to assert Book Reviews 381 her own version of events, even if they can only be acknowledged by her mother and sisters. She did not want to be ignored in the r95os. Nor, as revealed in the few words we have from her when she was eighty-four, does she want to be forgotten in the r99os. Access to this type of normally private commentary is an inestimable boon to the social histori_ an. The physical, intellectual, and emotional .work of making a life for oneself, one's family, and one's community are movingly laid out in details that few public documents preserve. Ruby's letters ultimately supply a salutary reminder of the past's, indeed our parents,' right to tell their own story in their own way. Ifwe listen closely to Ruby and her contemporaries, we will learn that the generation of the r95os represents more than mere creators of today's self-absorbed boomers. VERONICA STRONG-BOAG University ofBritish Columbia Canadian Papers in Rural History, vol. IO. Edited by DONALD J. AKENSON . Gananoque: Langdale Press 1996. $49.50 This is the tenth and final volume of Donald Akenson's Canadian Papers in Rural History. In these volumes, Akenson has provided a forum for historians of the countryside to publish their works and, as he noted in the first volume, explore the lives of people who shaped this country while 'working the ground.' It seems appropriate, then, to comment on the history produced by this series. In this particular volume, with twelve virtually unrelated essays, exclusion...


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