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French, Doris.

Toronto, Dundurn Press, 1988. 346pp, paper, ISBN 1-55002-036-6 (cloth) $26.95, 1-55002-038-2 (paper) $16.95. CIP

Grades 8 and up/Ages 13 and up
Reviewed by Irene J. Karasick

Volume 17 Number 3
1989 May

Ishbel and the Empire is a warm and compassionate biography of Lady Aberdeen, the wife of Lord Aberdeen, who was appointed Governor General in 1893. Doris French sustains the mood of the staid Victorian era and upper-class environment, the background to the benevolent Ishbel and her family.

The biography is a story of a courageous woman who lived her life to the fullest and gave generously of her time and effort to help those less fortunate, French's book is an engrossing account of Ishbel's eventful life from the cradle to her death. She portrays Ishbel as an outstanding personality, a leader, innovator and initiator, exemplary to the outside world but with dark secrets of her own. French also has success in putting a fresh perspective on the social and political aspects of the historical era.

The major portion of the second half of the book is devoted to the Aberdeens' life in Canada during their tenure at Rideau Hall. The description of many social and political events bound up in the life of this outstanding woman adds further charm to the biography. As well, the author does not neglect the fascination of Ishbel's personal life. The story woven around her loves and losses is juxtaposed with the account of her worldly social life and the challenges she faced in her desire to make the world a little better.

This biography is a good read and is beautifully illustrated with excellent photographic reproductions.

Irene J. Karasick, Winnipeg, Man.
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