City Hall and Mrs. God: A Passionate Journey Through a Changing Toronto


142 pages
ISBN 0-920554-73-8
DDC 971.3'541






Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is an editor in the College Division of Nelson Canada.


This is a tale of two cities—rich and poor—and of the ever-widening
divide between them. The author rejects traditional journalism, which
would force him to play the role of “dispassionate observer . . .
emotional voyeur,” in favor of a “literary journalism” that
combines narrative and documentary styles.

Fagan’s profiles of Toronto’s two extremes—its power brokers and
its disenfranchised citizens—are vivid and undoubtedly deeply felt.
However, they’re frequently marred by simplistic juxtapositions; for
example, a grim account of life on welfare is followed by a delighted
yuppie pair trumpeting their “new arrival of preferred stock.”

This book is as much a self-journey as a discovery of the city. The
author struggles to come to terms with his alienation from both worlds,
and he suffers a rude awakening when a welfare recipient—and valued
source—accuses him of being an “emotional voyeur.”

This work leaves readers with the depressing sense that reversing the
appalling trend towards polarization in this city will require more than
good intentions: it will require a sea change on both sides of the
unhappy divide.

This book was one of six finalists in the 1991 City of Toronto Book


Fagan, Cary., “City Hall and Mrs. God: A Passionate Journey Through a Changing Toronto,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,