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Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau: 1968-2000 [Hardcover]

John English
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 13 2009
This magnificent second volume, written with exclusive access to Trudeau’s private papers and letters, completes what the Globe and Mail called “the most illuminating Trudeau portrait yet written” — sweeping us from sixties’ Trudeaumania to his final days when he debated his faith.

His life is one of Canada’s most engrossing stories. John English reveals how for Trudeau style was as important as substance, and how the controversial public figure intertwined with the charismatic private man and committed father. He traces Trudeau’s deep friendships (with women especially, many of them talented artists, like Barbra Streisand) and bitter enmities; his marriage and family tragedy. He illuminates his strengths and weaknesses — from Trudeaumania to political disenchantment, from his electrifying response to the kidnappings during the October Crisis, to his all-important patriation of the Canadian Constitution, and his evolution to influential elder statesman.

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"This book now becomes the standard biography of Trudeau for the sheer scope and thoroughness of the research on all major aspects of Trudeau’s life. English is even-handed, rarely praising, blaming or psychologizing, but he explains and invokes all the different views on the events recounted. And it’s a good read."
— The Globe and Mail

"English’s biography of Trudeau . . . will surely stand for some time as the definitive account of the oft-told tale. . . . Other books may yet be written about Pierre Elliott Trudeau, but it’s hard to imagine another that would beat English’s version for insight and overview of the man and his time."
The Gazette

"John English’s terrific new biography of the former prime minister, Just Watch Me, is about as complete an account of Mr. Trudeau’s love life as we are likely to get."
Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail

"[Trudeau] was a comet across our heavens, and English does him good justice."
Winnipeg Free Press

"Shows Trudeau’s private and public sides intersecting poignantly. . . . A prime example of an intensely self-aware man’s quest for fulfillment in every compartment of his complex life."

"However many Trudeau books there may be, English reminds us that the man endures and eludes."
The Daily News (Nanaimo)

"Every life is a whole, and English treats Trudeau’s prime ministerial career as a whole to an extent none of his predecessors did."
Paul Wells, Literary Review of Canada

About the Author

John English is Professor of History, University of Waterloo. Citizen of the World was a multi-award winner and a Globe and Mail Best Book.

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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent piece of contemporary history Jan. 27 2010
By Vlad Thelad TOP 500 REVIEWER
Canada first caught my attention when, from far away, at a young age and in the early stages of becoming the political-junkie I am, I heard of its flamboyant Prime Minister. Little did I know that decades later I would chose this country to be my own. This book is an essential building block in understanding the contemporary history of Canada. Bring on your preconceptions, - from whichever your viewpoint regarding Trudeau the man, the politician, his actions and legacy - here you will find an accurate factual assessment that, without aiming to change your opinions, contextualizes the subject in its time and space, domestically and internationally, as it narrates a compelling personal and political story. A must read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Accurate Scope of the Man's Presence Dec 25 2009
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
John English, noted Canadian historian and biographer, has produced a very insightful and definitive second installment on the colorful and controversial political career of Pierre Trudeau, Canada's 15th prime minister. Like its predecessor, "Citizen of the World", "Just Watch Me" offers readers plenty to consider as to the man's many strengths and weaknesses. While English elaborately describes the charismatic ushering in of the Trudeau era in the late 60s, he pulls no punches in exposing Trudeau's inability to convince the Canadian public, especially Quebec, that his Federalist vision was sufficient to save the country from constitutional collapse. Trudeau, often portayed back then as the consummate leader in charge, saw himself as a strong-willed rationalist whose belief in the power of a strong central government would be enough to snap the provinces into line with the aid of a few political and economic crumbs. As he was about to learn, the provinces with Quebec leading the charge, wanted so much more than he was willing to give during these tumultuous times. English spends a lot time examining how Trudeau managed the country through a series of unfolding national and personal crises: October 1970; the Victoria Charter, a couple of major recessions; the Arab Oil Embargo; ongoing constitutional reform; and his marital problems with Margaret. At all times, in assessing these situations, English provides a great array of archival information that allows the reader to reach his or her own assessment of Trudeau's leadership qualities. Read more ›
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Watch me; or, the poetry of contradictions Jan. 5 2010
This book shows how Trudeau's dilemmas and contradictions as a public figure, which on the surface made him a somewhat mysterious and fascinating character, deeply inform the wider complexities of Canada's historical and communitarian situations internally and of Canada's place in the world.

In other words, if the reader senses at some level the complexities and dilemmas facing Canada's leaders, then at least some of the animus felt against the admittedly often controversial Pierre Elliott Trudeau can be seen to be ill informed.

This book scores highly when it comes to chronicling the blow by blow events in Trudeau's governments. It also copiously describes the at least partial disintegration of Trudeau's private life, which was sometimes as colourful as his public, political showmanship.

Professor English warms to his subject; but in a rather different way from Denis Smith's treatment of Diefenbaker, for example; where the biographer seems to relish impaling a previous colourful and sometimes bizarre Prime Minister of Canada with a detailed account of his subject's own foibles and failures. In this biography, the writer is as engaged and sympathetic as Professor Smith is cynical and distant.

Trudeau loved poetry, and in this second biographical volume the reader sees the challenges of Canada's internal and foreign policy governance through the sometimes poetic veneer of its Bohemian and often flamboyant, long term Prime Minister. But is this to say that there is less than meets the eye when one delves deeper than Trudeau's undoubted flair? I leave the question open.

(I expected more about Trudeau's years after he left office, since an entire first volume builds the picture of Trudeau's character seen through his earlier years before he became Prime Minister. 16 years in retirement might be thought to merit longer treatment than is given.)

An excellent book, certainly.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked It - Generally Nov. 30 2009
Thorough and very definitive information. Long and dry in some sections. If you are a history buff or are fascinated by Trudeau's legacy it is a must read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars National Energy Program June 1 2010
By iceman
I enjoyed this extremely well researched and well written biography of Trudeau although he was never a favourite of mine until after he had left office. Nor did I like his cabinet ministers. His National Energy Program was responsible for me having lost several thousand dollars on the TSE. He and his wife handled their marital problem in a civil manner that few other couples could ever do.
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