Canadian Obsessions: A Century of National Preoccupations, as Seen by «Maclean's».


200 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations
ISBN 978-1-55365-097-3
DDC 971'.0022'2





Edited by Pamela Young
Reviewed by Hugh Mellon

Hugh Mellon is an associate professor of political science at King’s
College, University of Western Ontario.


Did the once youthful Trudeau pirouette behind the Queen? Was Dave Keon really that small? What did the Dionne quintuplets actually look like in their youth? It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The truth of this adage is borne out in this charming collection of photographs and commentary from the annals of Maclean’s magazine. The pictures not only remind us of Canada’s evolution but also of the personalities and styles that have captured headlines—and hearts—over the years. Photographs are complemented bystories, illustrations, and cartoons.


The volume contains 100 sets of pictures loosely organized into categories such as Passions, The Country, and The Magazine. While the categories are helpful to a point, the best way to enjoy the book is to open it at random and allow memories to flow. Subjects as diverse as A.Y. Jackson, Donovan Bailey, Charlie Chamberlain, Joey Smallwood, Jarome Iginla, and the Queen Mother spark recollections which can be savoured and shared. Brief commentary by the editor or from past issues of Maclean’s offer reminders of debates past or special authors who have contributed to the magazine.


Early pictures are, of course, in black and white. They bring to mind the subtle skills and joy of early photography. The juxtaposition of the two often presents a striking contrast as in set number 21 presenting a staged black-and-white photo of J.A. Douglas McCurdy from 1909 opposite a modern action shot from 1987 of a CF-18 Fighter plane. The standouts include a photo of a young Gordie Howe being attended by his landlady, Charlie Chamberlain among Halifax schoolchildren, Mordecai Richler sorting through bargain books, and clear-cut timber wastelands in B.C. Less impressive are the shots  of Louis St. Laurent, who looks to be aiming at something, and Anne Murray hoisting a beer bottle.


Overall this is a splendid collection of pictures, memories, and Canadiana. Well done Maclean’s.


“Canadian Obsessions: A Century of National Preoccupations, as Seen by «Maclean's».,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,