Circumnavigating Father


175 pages
ISBN 0-88839-235-4
DDC 971.1'3303'092





Illustrations by Ian Bateson
Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



Palmer recalls everyday life with Father, a strong personality in the
style of the late Victorian “pater,” who ruled his tiny world
supreme in the unshakable belief that he deserved his place of honor as
head of the household by virtue of his status as a male and a member of
the British Empire. This confidence is expressed in a mildly humorous
my-way-of-course stance on everything from the selection of the family
car to the decision on what to have for dinner. That any other family
member’s viewpoint should be considered never occurred to Father.

A Maritimer who moved to the west coast, Father was naturally confident
of his knowledge of Canada, his superior insights into Canadian politics
and all national issues.

The slim book is full of reminders of the day-to-day preoccupations of
life in a small city circa 1910-15: countless flat tires, horse manure
in the streets, preserving fruit for winter, lengthy sermons every
Sunday, the hired help.

Informal and chatty in tone, yet well organized and well paced, this
portrait of Father is light reading certain to trigger memories for
anyone who has encountered that not-quite-extinct species, the
opinionated Victorian male.


Palmer, Hugh., “Circumnavigating Father,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,