Volume 17 Number 5
Dorothy Livesay has published many books, including Selected Poems:The Self-completing Tree (Porcepic, 1986) and Feeling the Worlds: New Poems ¹. She has been honoured with degrees from McGill, Waterloo, Simon Fraser and the University of Toronto, and has twice won the Governor General's medal for poetry (1944 and 1947).Livesay has been writing autobiographical short stories since 1950. Expanded from her original collection A Winnipeg Childhood (Peguis, 1973), Beginnings represents the first of three lightly fictionalized autobiographical volumes, and contains an account of Livesay's early childhood years in Winnipeg, 1912-1920. Dorothy, called Elizabeth in the stories, leads a fairly sheltered life, full of small-scale adventures. The typical fears and confusions of growing up, however, are intensified for her by disturbing echoes from the adult world. The turbulence of the Great War and the General Strike take their toll on Elizabeth's family, creating strains that make her try to distance herself from the "strange atmosphere" where "tall people" move. The desire to withdraw is eventually balanced by the excitement of discovering the unknown; Elizabeth finds a new strength in self-sufficiency as she prepares for the family's move to a fresh start in Toronto. The seventeen stories, chronologically arranged, are unified by the opening thematic poem, "isolate." Livesay's prose flows smoothly from story to story, never losing its characteristic clarity and simplicity. Livesay presents a convincing self-portrait in Elizabeth, and she is particularly successful in conveying the child's frequently bewildered perspective of the cast of adults that surround her. Beginnings is sturdily and attractively bound, with small but clear, well-spaced print. An important addition to adult Canadians' collections.
Leslie McGrath, Toronto Public Library, Toronto, ON.
¹ Reviewed vol. XIV/1 January 1986, p.32.
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