Monday, September 29, 2008

Extraordinary Canadians: Lord Beaverbrook by David Adams Richards

Press baron, entrepreneur, art collector, and wartime minister in Churchill's cabinet,Max Aitken was a colonial Canadian extraordinaire. Rising from a hardscrabble childhood in New Brunswick, he became a millionaire at age 25, earned the title of Lord Beaverbrook at 38, and by age 40 was the most influential newspaperman in the world. Fiercely loyal to the British Empire, he was nonetheless patronized by London's upper class, whose country he worked tirelessly to protect during World War II. David Adams Richards, one of Canada's preeminent novelists, celebrates Beaverbrook's heroic achievements in this perceptive interpretive biography.
I am so happy that I came across this series of books being put out by Penguin Canada. I saw that Charlotte Grey was writing a book about Nellie McClung and bought it because I like both the author and the subject matter. When the book arrived, I saw a website and went to see where it led to and found a treasure-trove of a series! I love history, especially Canadian history, so I was thrilled to see that famous Canadian authors were writing books on famous Canadians! And, famous Canadian artists were creating the cover art for the books. Some of the subjects I know a lot about, while others I have only heard about in passing. Lord Beaverbrook is one subject that I have never really paid a lot of attention to.

I am very glad that I took the time to read this book. I chose to read this one next because I really enjoy David Adams Richards as an author (most of the time), so I wanted to see what he would do with Beaverbrook. Both men are from New Brunswick, so it made sense that he was the author writing about him. This series is not meant to tell you every little detail about the subjects life, it is more to bring history to Canadians and then you can decide if you want to explore the subject in more depth. While I enjoyed learning more about Beaverbrook, I do not think he made a lasting impact on me. Politics can be my thing, but I pay more attention to modern politics than the history of them.

Beaverbrook was reviled in his adopted country of England, looked upon as a colonial, and hated by the aristocracy as an upstart. He was snubbed by those he must wanted to impress, and betrayed by those he trusted and helped. The heroic and historic role he played on the world stage from 1910 to 1945 is almost forgotten in Canada (like so much else about our history).
He does sound like quite the character, and he was, but this will probably be the only book I read on the subject. I am glad I know about more about him because I do not recall ever learning about him in school, and that really is a shame because he was a colorful character that did a lot for this country.

Much of his story takes place during the Second World War and I was very interested to learn about what part he played in it. I have always paid attention to history pertaining to both of the World Wars and I was surprised that I did not recall ever really hearing mention of Beaverbrook. He was a great friend of Winston Churchill, a name that is known far and wide, and it is a shame that Beaverbrook is not better known because without him, much that happened when Churchill had the reins would never be.

Anyone that wants to know a bit more about Canadian history should check this series out. The books are not dry and they give you a very good overview of the lives of these famous Canadians.

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