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Paul Martin.

Ottawa, Deneau, c1983.
482pp, cloth, $24.95.
ISBN 0-88879-092-9.

Reviewed by Allan S. Evans .

Volume 12 Number 3
1984 May

As most readers of his memoirs would know in advance, Paul Martin has had a long and distinguished career in Canadian public life. He was a prominent member of several Liberal administrations, some of which are widely considered to have been among the most competent in our history. Unfortunately, Martin as an author seems more intent upon convincing us of the undisputed merits of his career than on providing insight into the personalities and issues involved therein.

The extent and duration of his experience in government was truly remarkable. It spanned many important and even dramatic developments, including the Great Depression, World War II, and the unprecedented period of post-war expansion. He served as a Member of Parliament and later in Cabinet in various portfolios under four prime ministers before moving on to the Senate and eventually to the post of Canadian High Commissioner in London. This first volume of Martin's memoirs covers the period from his birth in 1903 to his appointment as minister of national health and welfare in 1947.

Yet, despite the potential for interest and excitement, Martin chooses to relate his life in an all-too-matter-of-fact way. These are his memoirs, and so this approach is his prerogative, but his readers are the losers. For example, he sees fit to go into great detail on such relatively mundane matters as his various re-election campaigns, his activities on now-obscure committees, and the like. When he does discuss prominent personalities and events, he does so in a very general and usually antiseptic way. There are few significant revelations about his colleagues or the contentious issues with which they dealt. It is as though he is following a self-imposed dictum of no controversy and no colour.

While an active politician, he was known for his great circumspection. This is a laudable quality in a statesman but rarely in authors. Paul Martin's name will be cause enough for many readers to begin this book, but his approach will leave them hard pressed to find a reason to finish it.

Allan S. Evans, Emery C. I., Weston, ON.
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