Historic Nelson: The Early Years.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
"It is evident that the purpose of this work has been, not to present the facts of Nelson's past in the form of an academic history, but rather to infuse those facts with the breath of life, to make us 'be there' as we are when we read a story; for the history of Nelson is a story, a saga, worthy in its humble way to be sung as was Homer's epic of Troy."Author John Norris has previously written "Old Silverton" and "Wo Lee Stories". When I read the Table of Contents I was attracted by the style in which they were presented; for instance "Chapter 16 - A chapter bursting at the seams in its attempt to encompass events which were occurring on the west arm of Kootenay Lake at a rapidly accelerating pace in 1888." Where had I seen that type of chapter description before? I guessed that it was an old-fashioned style that I had come across quite often, but my husband identified probably the most familiar author to use it - A.A. Milne in his "Pooh" books. Unfortunately, the long-winded chapter descriptions continued throughout the entire book when they could have done with an enormous amount of condensation.
Not being familiar with the Kootenay area, I had difficulty following the early, endless peregrinations of the main characters because the map facing page 13, was inadequate and too small. The Walla Walla trail was written about, but where was it? Surely not as far south as Walla Walla itself?
The publisher cheated the reader in the reproductions of early photographs. The author goes to great lengths to describe in detail photos on pages 195 and 212, and I tried desperately to identify them, but without success. There were a few gripping and lively descriptions and quotations, such as Norris' description of Bob Yuill's trip to Nelson on New Year's Eve; the building of the Nelson courthouse; the report of the Provincial Sanitary Inspector in regard to Nelson's facilities or lack thereof. This story of Nelson ends with its incorporation and the election of its first Mayor, John Houston. The time span of this history is from 1882 to 1897.
I know a book like this demands a tremendous amount of research and dedication, and the author has done the groundwork well in what is clearly a labour of love. John Norris' philosophising and speculating as to cause and effect wander throughout the book mirroring the roving characters of whom he writes. For people who are familiar with Nelson and surrounding communities perhaps it will be more gripping reading, but for schools I would recommend it as a reference book only, making use of the chapter end notes, the bibliography and the fairly detailed index.
Recommended with reservations.
Joan Payzant is a retired teacher-librarian, living in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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