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Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times [Hardcover]

Richard J. Gwyn
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Book Description

Sept. 27 2011 John A: The Man Who Made Us

An exciting story, passionately told and rich in detail, this major biography is the second volume of the bestselling, award-winning John A: The Man Who Made Us, by well-known journalist and highly respected author Richard Gwyn.

John A. Macdonald, Canada's first and most important prime minister, is the man who made Confederation happen, who built this country over the next quarter century, and who shaped what it is today. From Confederation Day in 1867, where this volume picks up, Macdonald finessed a reluctant union of four provinces in central and eastern Canada into a strong nation, despite indifference from Britain and annexationist sentiment in the United States.

But it wasn't easy. The wily Macdonald faced constant crises throughout these years, from Louis Riel's two rebellions through to the Pacific Scandal that almost undid his government and his quest to find the spine of the nation: the railroad that would link east to west. Gwyn paints a superb portrait of Canada and its leaders through these formative years and also delves deep to show us Macdonald the man, as he marries for the second time, deals with the birth of a disabled child, and the assassination of his close friend Darcy McGee, and wrestles with whether Riel should hang.

Indelibly, Gwyn shows us Macdonald's love of this country and his ability to joust with forces who would have been just as happy to see the end of Canada before it had really begun, creating a must-read for all Canadians.

Frequently Bought Together

Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times + John A: The Man Who Made Us + King
Price For All Three: CDN$ 62.97

  • John A: The Man Who Made Us CDN$ 16.61
  • King CDN$ 23.16

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WINNER 2012 – Writers’ Trust of Canada Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing
WINNER 2012 – Dafoe Book Prize
FINALIST 2011 – Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2011 – BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2011 – Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2011 – Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction
A Globe and Mail Best Book

“Having digested prodigious quantities of research, and woven his knowledge into a seamless and stylish whole, Gwyn…has given us a first prime minister for the 21st century…. A towering achievement, a glittering career-capper, and it may prove impossible to beat.”
—Ken McGoogan, The Globe and Mail
“All the key historical characters are deftly described, which contributes hugely to making this book such an engaging read…. Nation Maker brings a fresh, welcome perspective to the life of our founding father. Anyone who reads it will no longer be able to take this powerful, charismatic, and dedicated man for granted.”
—Quill & Quire (starred review)
“Gwyn knows how to tell a good story…. This is John A., warts and all.”
—Winnipeg Free Press

“It was widely expected that the veteran journalist Richard Gwyn would write an extremely readable biography of Sir John A. Macdonald, and he has. It was expected that his books would address many recent Canadian issues, and they do. What particularly surprises and delights students of Canadian political history, however, is the amount of new material Gwyn has uncovered about the life and political times of the country’s first Prime Minister. If he does not know absolutely everything about Sir John A., Richard Gwyn knows far more than any previous biographer, including Donald Creighton. In a tour de force of research, he has mastered the sources, weaves them beautifully into his text, and presents to us a more lifelike, more credible Macdonald than we had previously imagined. In passing Richard Gwyn puts a generation of Canadian political historians to shame with his scholarship and energy. Thanks to him we now have a John A. Macdonald for twenty-first century Canada.”
—Michael Bliss

“Charming, difficult, far-sighted, devious, Sir John A. Macdonald was a master politician who spoke to Canadians in a way that few others have ever done. Writing with his usual elegance and insight, Richard Gwyn has done full justice to the man whose own story is inextricably interwoven with that of Canada.”
—Margaret MacMillan, author of Paris 1919

About the Author

RICHARD GWYN is an award-winning author and political columnist. He is widely known as a commentator for the Toronto Star on national and international affairs and as a frequent contributor to television and radio programs. His books include two highly praised biographies, Smallwood: The Unlikely Revolutionary on Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood, and The Northern Magus on Pierre Elliott Trudeau. His book, Nationalism Without Walls: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Canadian, was selected by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the 100 most important books published in Canada. The first volume of Gwyn's biography of Macdonald was published in 2007, became a national bestseller and won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Sir John A Macdonald did something amazing. In 1867, he and his fellow Fathers of Confederation knit together four separate British colonies into the Dominion of Canada.

That in itself was an exceptional accomplishment, as detailed in Volume 1 - "The Man Who Made Us" by Richard Gwyn.

Gwyn's second volume, "Nation Builder" is even better. Gwyn is able to show us the steps that Macdonald, an outstanding negotiator and very clever builder, undertook to turn Canada from four provinces in eastern North America into a nation from sea to sea and north to the Arctic Ocean.

There were bumps along the way: the Pacific Scandal that put Macdonald into opposition for 5 years; Macdonald's troubled home life; his regrettable addiction to alcohol; his decision to execute Louis Riel after the second Riel rebellion.

However, Macdonald drove the agenda that saw the CPR finished in 1885 with an all-Canadian route; developed the manufacturing and the settlement policies that provided the foundations; and steadily built the foundations for Canada's eventual independence from Great Britain.

I have previously read Donald Creighton's two volumes on Macdonald ("The Young Politician" and "The Old Chieftain" and they were good. However, Richard Gwyn, with a wonderful style and a great storyteller's knack for planning and referencing his tale, makes Sir John A., nation builder; stand out as an individual to whom all Canadians owe a debt of gratitude.

What is certainly interesting is that Macdonald accomplished so much with his skills in persuasion, his intellect and his ability to form coalitions that were willing to work together. He wa, except for George Brown, founder of "the Globe" newspaper, rarely vengeful.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Richard Gwyn has written a well-researched and detailed, yet engaging, biography of Sir John A. that is a treasure to our relatively young nation. Stereotypes about Canadian history being boring, incrimental, lacking great individuals, etc, fall by the wayside while reading this wonderful book.

As historial Michael Bliss wrote, "Thanks to him (Mr. Gwyn) we now have a John A. Macdonald for twenty-first century Canada." Vital, detailed, and engaging... enough to make modest Canadians nationalistic, but in a good way...and non-Canadians better appreciate our roots.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Sir John A: His life, our times March 18 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book and its companion volume ought to be ready by every Canadian. It instills confidence in our nation and its history. It is possible for a great diversity of human beings and groups to live together in one nation with a common purpose.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent March 24 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An excellent read. Make sure you get both parts of this biography. It's very well written and quite fascinating, as well.
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Canadian history and how one mans vision and determination changed history through his wit .charm and political skills forged the way to Canadas confederation through the national dream of a railway system jioning west and eastern canada through his vision
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