Time of Their Lives: The Dionne Tragedy


228 pages
ISBN 0-7704-42175-X





Reviewed by Jami van Haaften

Jami van Haaften is a librarian and author of An Index to Selected
Canadian Provincial Government Publications for Librarians, Teachers and


The authors have created a fictional account of the early life of the Dionne quintuplets. This presentation, factual in most respects, will whet the reader’s appetite for works more biographical in nature.

The cast of characters, besides the five babies, includes their parents, siblings, two doctors, a journalist, and even such notables as William Randolph Hearst and Ontario’s Premier Mitch Hepburn.

Time of Their Lives aims to be true to the spirit of what happened to the Dionne family. To this end, all of the outcomes described in the book are true, the authors note.

John Nihmey has previously written a syndicated travel feature, “Hotels of the World” (1977-80). He is now president of a major communications firm in Ottawa. Researcher and writer Stuart Foxman works for the same firm.

They have put together a novel which stands alone admirably as a book which can be read and appreciated without in-depth knowledge of the Dionne story. They have told the story primarily from the point of view of the parents, using media accounts and interviews to arrive at their interpretation of events.

The birth of the five girls in 1934 became a media event with international press attention focused on the town of Corbeil near North Bay, Ontario. The local doctor was able to control the babies’ lives, with support and encouragement from the media and from politicians such as Premier Hepburn.

It would be years before the parents were able to gain unrestricted visiting rights, to have French staff employed at the Dafoe Hospital, to have a say in the education of the children, and eventually to win custody of the quintuplets and have them leave the hospital to live with the rest of the family.

This novel ends at the point when the eight-year-old girls leave the Dafoe Hospital. In the final four pages the authors conclude the story by bringing the reader up to date on the Dionne family tragedy, and the estrangement of the girls from their family in Corbeil.



Nihmey, John, and Stuart Foxman, “Time of Their Lives: The Dionne Tragedy,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/34378.