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Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times Hardcover – Sep 27 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Canada (Sept. 27 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307356442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307356444
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #109,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. Smedmor on Nov. 12 2011
Format: Hardcover
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 By B. Keith on Oct. 3 2011
Format: Hardcover
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas on Nov. 4 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have just completed the reading of both volumes of Richard Gywn's biography of Sir John A. Macdonald. The reading of both volumes of this biography is necessary to understand the founding and creation of Canada. Every well-informed Canadian MUST read these books. Thanks to Macdonald and his confreres we have a unique country that is NOT American. These books will add to your pride in our national identity, and answer your questions as to why Canada is such a wonderful country, and to why we are fortunate to be citizens of Canada. Both books are a good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Greta Poole on Dec 14 2011
Format: Hardcover
I never fully appreciated what a fine writer Richard Gwyn was. His biography of Sir John A. Macdonald is fascinating. The author has uncovered so many intriguing and appealing characteristics of this paragon of a true Canadian. Macdonald's humour, intelligence, tenacity and above all his devotion to his image of a future Canada that he determinedly struggled to fulfill has been written in a style that will appeal to all ages. Through many years of research Gwyn has given us a broader understanding of not only Macdonald, but of the times and the powerful and influential participants in the political environment
. He also manages to address current affairs in the UK and the USA which also resulted in significant repercussions for Canada which Macdonald dealt with judiciously.
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who really wants to know how our country was born, and who made it so.
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Format: Hardcover
Nation Maker is an excellent look at the man and the times. It is 'moist' book, personal and colloquial rather than a dry and analytical historical survey. With Volume 1, it provides a sprawling epic of Canada's founding.

John A. was a flawed man, at times a drunkard, erratic, melancholic, politically unscrupulous, who greased the machinery of governance with patronage. He was, however, a man who could get things done. From disparate ethnic and religious groups, he cobbled together a national consensus that flew in the face of the overwhelming logic of Canada's annexation to the U.S.; of those whose sole common goal was the avoidance of that fate.

Fractious from the start these groups were motivated by allegiances (as British or French, Protestant or Catholic), most of whom were far more bitter towards their confreres than to an anomalous American threat.. and whose motives, fears, and prejudices were not easily reconciled. The era was marked by tension between radical religious polarities, notably the Ultramontane and Orange Order. The virulently anti-British Fenians represented an external and internal threat to Canada, and produced Canada's first and only political assassination, of D'Arcy McGee, the poet laureate of Canada's founding.

McGee and Georges Etienne Cartier provided a vital force of charismatic idealism that counterbalanced McDonald's acerbic expediency, and formed the foundation of a French, English political accord. It was MacDonald who provided the prose to this poetic idyll. By nature MacDonald was practical and flexible, not a visionary in the utopian sense or an ideologue.
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