Will Canada ever see another leader like Pierre Elliott Trudeau? Unlikely. Trudeau was very much a product of his time and place. At the time of his rise in the ranks of the Liberal party, the country was in dire need of a leader with a vision. Too, the political machine wasn't yet so well ordered and set in its ways that there was no room for a maverick like the Montreal-born politician. Memoirs
is Trudeau's quite readable account of his life from his humble beginnings in "a neighbourhood of modest means" until his retirement from the prime minister's office in 1984, with a brief chapter touching on his life after politics. Those hoping for gossipy details about bedroom dalliances with classical guitarist Liona Boyd or the party years of wife Margaret will come away disappointed. Of his marriage, Trudeau writes only, "1970 was also the year I fell in love with a beautiful girl, Margaret Sinclair. ... The romance took the press by surprise, which is how we wanted it." The divorce is also barely touched upon. Instead, Trudeau spills much ink on his triumphs, failures, and machinations while in office. Occasionally this results in some breast-beating that is almost charming in its shamelessness, especially in captions for some of the book's many photographs. In text accompanying a picture with several high-ranking Russians, he quotes Andrei Gromyko, from the Russian foreign secretary's own memoirs. "'Nevertheless, in international affairs, he [Trudeau] stood head and shoulders above statesmen of other NATO countries who are blinded by their hostility to socialism and either cannot or will not recognize the situation as it is.'" At times, such as his invoking of the War Measures Act during the October Crisis, Trudeau is understandably quite defensive. He is almost always gracious, however, and has few unkind things to say about anyone, even staunch opponents like René Lévesque. He does get in a jab at Ronald Reagan, though, who at an economic summit meeting relates a story about his days as president of Actors' Equity that has little to do with matters at hand.
Memoirs is not an exceptionally well-written piece of work, and large chunks of it might be dull to those uninterested in, say, the political manoeuvrings behind the Charter of Rights and the Charlottetown Accord. But what makes the book fascinating isn't the prose but the life revealed. World traveller, enthusiastic kayaker, cunning politician, and charismatic leaderit's no wonder "Trudeaumania" swept Canada when he first ran for office. --Shawn Conner
“A highly readable and entertaining book. Vintage Trudeau indeed.”
“Pure Trudeau – witty, arrogant, intelligent and partisan…a must read for anyone interested in this country.”