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Iron Man: The Defiant Reign of Jean Chretien [Hardcover]

Lawrence Martin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Oct. 28 2003 Chretien
Few would have believed that Jean Chrétien—given all his encumbrances—would have become prime minister of Canada, let alone stay at the helm for a decade. But Chrétien defied the odds, becoming one of the most powerful figures in Canadian history.

During his ten-year reign, Chrétien beat back Quebec separatism and eliminated the deficit. He amassed dictatorial powers, manhandled his opposition, repudiated the neo-conservatives, and said no to American pressures. He triumphed in every election, but his own party pushed him out.

In Iron Man: The Defiant Reign of Jean Chrétien, the PM's unique story is consummately told by Lawrence Martin, the nation's foremost journalistic authority on Chrétien. Martin, the author of the critically acclaimed account of his rise to the top Chrétien: The Will to Win, surpasses that achievement with this incisive assessment of Chrétien's years in power. Martin was given exclusive interviews with Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, key players in the Cabinet and the PMO, and more than one hundred other officials and politicians. He weighs Chrétien's strengths and weaknesses while revealing how his governance changed Canada.

The "little guy from Shawinigan" began life with disadvantages that would have given many an inferiority complex, Martin states, and even as prime minister he still faced legions of naysayers who claimed he was too unsophisticated to lead the country. Chrétien's mission was to prove them wrong and show that the values of average Canadians were as worthy as those from society's upper strata. It was all about the masses versus the classes. In his own words, Jean Chrétien was the Iron Man. He was not about to rest until his side had triumphed.

Thorough, engrossing, and sweeping in scope, Iron Man is a political page-turner.

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The children in Shawinigan called him "crooked face" when he was growing up. He liked street fighting and felt more comfortable in a pool hall than the classroom. He was the eighteenth of 19 children in a small Quebec town where a job at the paper mill was the height of ambition. And he was also the most successful Liberal vote-getter in Canadian history. Jean Chrétien was an unlikely prime minister who clawed his way to the top and behaved like an insecure, power-hungry autocrat once there, writes journalist Lawrence Martin in Iron Man. Chrétien constantly measured himself against his arch-enemy, Finance Minister Paul Martin (no relation to the author). When the two worked at Power Corp. in Montreal, Chrétien liked to play golf against Martin because he could beat him. When Chrétien ran for the Liberal leadership against Martin, he boasted to an assistant, "My suit is more expensive than Paul Martin's." In 2000, he ran for a third term in office largely to spite Martin.

Chrétien's petty rivalry with Martin is at the heart of Iron Man, the book that completes Lawrence Martin's two-volume biography of the "Little Guy from Shawinigan." The Globe and Mail columnist went directly to Chrétien, Martin, and over a 100 other officials for their accounts and came up with an engrossing story about the prime minister's 10-year reign. The book does a great job showing what a head-strong oddball Chrétien really is. As a young lad, he "loved to be outside the rules" and was expelled from seminary college. When he first ran for election as an MP, he lined up a friend to run as an opposing candidate to split the vote on the right. The book chronicles many of the memorable episodes of Chrétien's time in office, including the "Shawinigate" scandal that threatened to destroy his government and the 1995 Quebec sovereignty referendum (in which Chrétien was apparently prepared to repudiate a "yes" vote and send in the army). The book's strength is also, however, its weakness. Based largely on the views of Ottawa insiders, it often comes off as gossipy and navel-gazing. Some key issues--like Chrétien's cuts to unemployment insurance--go virtually unmentioned. But overall, it's an absorbing read, especially for those fascinated by tales of Parliament Hill intrigue. --Alex Roslin


"Iron Man will survive the enduring test of time as the definitive biography of a prime minister Canadians love to loathe and can’t help but like." -- Calgary Herald

"A lively, comprehensive, intelligent, and fair account ... laced with frank, insightful quotes from informed insiders..." -- The Globe and Mail

"Brimming with tantalizing new stories about the Prime Minister’s last thirteen years in politics..." -- Hill Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Kid's Review
This book is even more amazing read now than it was in 2003, when it was published.

It was the first serious biography of a man so many in his own party refused to take seriously.

Meanwhile, he won three election victories for the Canadian Liberals, and was never defeated, a feat unsurpassed by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, W. L. Mackenzie King, or Trudeau.

This book shows why the scrapper from Shawinigan connected so deeply with ordinary Canadians.

And read now, when Jean Chretien's successors have been undewhelming the electorate, the outsider that many in his party refused to take seriously, is now being implored by some to make a comeback.

If you didn't take Jean Chretien seriously before reading this biography, you will afterwards.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Volume 2 of Lawrence Martin's Chretien Biography July 6 2012
By Richard Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I discovered the writings of Lawrence Martin after reading a copy of his book Harperland about Stephen Harper. I very much enjoyed the quality of the writing, the depth of the analysis and the insights into Harper and his regime. As he is clearly unimpressed by a Canadian Conservative leader, I was curious about how he had treated a Canadian Liberal one, hence my reading of the first of his volumes on Jean Chretien, and now this second one. Again, I have been just as impressed by the writing quality and insights as I was with Harperland. I am currently reading his earlier book "Pledge of Allegiance" on the rule of Brian Mulroney and his government, which preceded Chretien's Prime Ministership. I expect to read all of Martin's books in short order - I cannot recommend this author highly enough.
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