Marie Matiaszow, B.A., B.Ed., MLIS

Posted on 1/17/2008 at 9:03:46 PM

No Corner Boys Here: An Alberta Saga
A book review by Marie Matiaszow, B.A., B.Ed., MLIS

Jean Crozier’s recently published book No Corner Boys Here (c2007) is one of the most comprehensive, well-documented books about the immigrant experience in Alberta I have ever read.

In her two volume rendition, the author describes how her Welsh grandparents immigrated to Canada in 1927, with eight children in tow (a ninth was born three years after the family’s arrival) and settled on a farm at Irma, Alberta. Unlike many immigrants, Fred Thurston had been born on a farm, and had farmed most of his life.

The significance of this story, however, is not just in the personal story of one extended family, but in the comprehensive documentation and research that authenticates the family’s journey. The author recreates the economic, political and social conditions of the time so accurately the story takes on a much greater historical appeal. This could be the story of any family anywhere in Alberta at the time.

Jean Crozier doesn’t just start with her grandparents’ immigration, but delves into the background of her grandparents’ predecessors in England and Wales. Her curiosity is insatiable as her search for answers takes her to Wales, into archives, local record offices, historical sites and the homes of previously unknown and distant relatives. She visits the homes her grandparents lived in and weaves her own journey into their lives as she unravels the mystery of their motivations. In doing so, she recreates, again, an amazingly accurate picture of the social, economic, and political times in Wales, England and Europe of the time.

Once in Canada, the story becomes the story of every immigrant farmer who ever tried to eke a living from the Alberta soil. The picture she portrays of the changing farming methods, the struggles, the economic fluctuations, the social life, the family discords and cohesion, farm modernization and the final destiny of the nine children in the family is an indelible record of what happened on farms everywhere in Alberta. The story is enriched by an abundance of photographs that are impressive in their detail, and that reinforce the nature of the times and the family’s daily travail.

This is also a story about a little girl, her sisters and her brother, sibling who spent their summers on their grandparents’ farm and flourished in the secure, loving environment of a large extended family. In spite of the struggles, differences and poverty that sometimes plagued them, this family was able to love, play and work together. The author uses a beautiful metaphor to illustrate this, referring frequently to the silken web of relationships and events that wind back around to bring people together again and again in surprising ways.

These are very readable books, written in an easy, conversational style. The author writes candidly, incorporating facts, family myths, stories, interviews, speculation and questions into a fabric of great complexity and depth. She does not skirt the truth, but reports conflicts and feelings with respect and tact. Her descriptions of special moments, reactions to scenery and her own emotional responses verges on the poetic. Her characterizations of family members is thorough, interesting, well rounded and sometimes suspenseful. You want to know what happens to each of these people.

This book transcends being “just another family story”. The story is so well researched and documented and the historical facts presented so accurately and astutely that the book takes on a much greater value. Read for the intrinsic value of its content, the characters are not only interesting individuals in their own right, but represent a period in the history of Alberta that warrants attention.

No Corner Boys Here is a valuable historical resource for any library, school or individual wanting to find out what life was like in rural Alberta in the early part of this century.

Marie Matiaszow, B.A., B.Ed., MLIS
now retired Consultant,
Libraries, Community and Voluntary Services Branch
Public Library Services
Alberta Government

January, 2008

Posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2008 at 9:03 pm In Reviews | Comments RSS

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