Sir John A. MacDonald: His Life, Our Times
Random House Canada, Hardcover, 9780307356444, 688pp.
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
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.
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.”
“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