The Motor Boys in Ottawa: A Novel


295 pages
ISBN 0-7737-5080-0






Reviewed by Michael O. Nowlan

Michael O. Nowlan was a teacher and writer in Oromocto, New Brunswick.


Perhaps the most important writer at work in Canada today is Montreal’s Hugh Hood. In 1975, he published The Swing in the Garden, the first in a series of 12 novels whose purpose is to depict the consciousness of Canada during the twentieth century.

The Motor Boys in Ottawa, which marks the halfway point in the series, is most timely because itdeals with such issues as free trade, the American Auto Parts agreement, and the beginnings of oil price increases. Spanning the years 1962—70, it reflects on the indecisive years of Canadian politics when no government could form a majority. It also illustrates the rise of Pierre Trudeau, Expo ‘67, NHL expansion, space technology, racism, and the Beatles. The novel concludes when “the prime minister invoked the provisions of the War Measures Act against the kidnappers of Pierre Laporte and Jasper Cross.”

In some ways, this novel is an indictment against the civil service, the politician “who has been

effective politically and at the same time wielded immense economic force,” and a system of values that “rejected high-mindedness and truthfulness.” In recording social history as Hood does, his fiction is concerned with events surrounding change. The central figure Matthew Goderich says “somewhere in the 1960s the world of values that I’d inhabited up to that time had been snapped at its roots, withered, died, been torn up.” In other words, Hood sees that period as a turning point in Canadian history. One does not read Hugh Hood for ease and entertainment. In The Motor Boys in Ottawa, there is a large body of philosophy, sociology, and political science. It is provocative and engaging.

When Hood’s series of 12novels is complete, itwill stand as a monumental source work for the study of history and society. This is the pivotal book in the series and it moves the reader to look for the texts of the seventies and those leading us to the year 2000 when the narrative will end.


Hood, Hugh, “The Motor Boys in Ottawa: A Novel,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,