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Paul Stuewe.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 1988.
225pp., cloth, $24.95.
ISBN 1-55028150-X. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Garner, Hugh, 1913-1979-Biography.
Authors, Canadian (English)-20th century-Biography.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up

Reviewed by Cornelia Fuykschot.

Volume 17 Number 2
1989 March

The story of Hugh Garner, prolific writer of books and short stories throughout the middle years of this century, needed to be told. Garner had done this himself in his autobiography One Damn Thing After Another (Simon and Schuster of Canada, 1975), but he did it at a time in his life when his critical faculties were diminishing - the cumulative effect of years of hard drinking - while his receptivity to editorial advice - never great - had vanished under the weight of success. Thus there was certainly room for a more objective account of the life and work of one of Canada's best-known writers.

In ten well laid-out chapters, Paul Stuewe, who confesses to a certain mental kinship with his subject, follows the young Garner from his entry as an English immigrant with his mother and little brother to join an irresponsible father, through a youth ill spent in Toronto's schools, Depression hardships, a stint in the Spanish Civil War and in the Canadian navy during World War II, to his settling down in Toronto and the final dedication to his profession - writing.

Astutely interweaving the known facts of Garner's life with the many autobiographical features in his fiction, Stuewe presents a convincing portrait of Garner the loner, the anti-establishment man, the journalist, the hack who has to provide for his family, the socialist, the drinker. The one thing that is hardly touched upon is Garner the husband and father. We hear more about Garner the son and the problematic relationship with his mother and her various friends. The book ends with several pages of source notes.

Besides providing a convincing portrait, Steuwe writes in a clear, crisp style that makes for enjoyable reading and places the book well within the reach of the high school student.

Highly recommended.

Cornelia Fuykschot, Gananoque Secondory School, Gananoque, ON.
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