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Edited by Margaret Gillett and Kay Sibbald. Montreal, Eden Press, cl984.425pp, paper, $16.95, ISBN 0-920792-31-6. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by donalee Moulton-Barrett

Volume 13 Number 2
1985 March

In 1894, the first women were admitted to McGill University in Montreal. To celebrate that milestone, 100 years later, editors Margaret Gillet and Kay Sibbald created the idea for A Fair Shake: Autobiographical Essays by McGill Women, a collection of thirty-one articles by women who went to McGill as students or are employed there now.

Of the collection, Gillett and Sibbald write:

It is really several things in one. It is a celebration of a hundred years presence at McGill University. It is also a collection of essays on diverse lives, fragments of social history in words and pictures, speculations on what it takes to succeed in the twentieth century, and reflections on what it means to be a woman in academe.

A Fair Shake does all this.

Reading about the lives and insights of women like pediatrician Jessie Boyd Scriver, author Constance Beresford-Howe and judge Claire Kirkland-Casgrain is inherently fascinating, because these women are fascinating. They are successful. They are achievers. They are intelligent. They are human.

All these traits are revealed in their essays; unfortunately, so is a lack of much-needed editorial control. These essays were edited minimally, if at all, and that was a mistake. Characters are introduced with no reference points, and often without any name; acronyms are used without any explanation as to what they mean (the editors of the work seem to have forgotten that it will not only be people who are familiar with McGill that read the book); the writing moves curtly, often abruptly, from one paragraph to another and from one subject to another. All readers can do is look around in bewilderment, shrug their shoulders and move on to the next sentence. (You very quickly tire of flipping back over pages to see if you missed something.)

The poor editing doesn't make you want to stop reading A Fair Shake, because the idea is good and the women writing the essays are even better. However, it does detract, seriously, from an otherwise enjoyable and informative look at McGill women.

donalee Moulton-Barrett, Halifax, N.S.
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