File 23: The Shocking Truth about Canada


219 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-458-99660-2




Reviewed by Nicholas Pashley

Nicholas Pashley was a bookseller and a freelance writer and editor in Toronto.


Globe and Mail columnist Orland French has written a satirical book about the history of Canada. Or rather, he has written the Foreword to a book that purports to have been written by one Brigadier-General Harold Montgomery deBoisvert-Greenwood, scion of a little-known Canadian family that traces its roots to 1759, when Lt.-Col. Horace Defiance Greenwood formed an alliance with the young Sylvie-Marie Brizzard Gobelet deChampagne deBoisvert shortly after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Succeeding generations of deBoisvert-Greenwoods have served their country and saved their paperwork, and the elderly Brigadier-General has assembled the contents of the twenty-third drawer on the right-hand side of the family chest to produce File 23: The Shocking Truth about Canada.

The reader who has already chuckled at the names mentioned above has a reasonable chance of enjoying this book. Others may wish to keep on waiting for the definitive funny book about Canada’s history, or simply do something else.

File 23 is rife with wacky names. Radisson and Grosseilliers open a vegetarian restaurant, featuring specialties like Dollar Days Ormeaux, which are dollar-sized flapjacks created by their chef Woolworth de Kresge. There’s an Indian chief, Kassa Looma, head of the Baieblooor tribe. Wilfrid Laurier suffers at the hands of Ottawa civil servants with names like Dwayne Custtoms and Grabbit Awle. The author’s cousin Borje — from Salming Arm, B.C., no less — gets involved in international intrigue at Norway’s University of Orrll-jjkkrrjjllo, and his great-grandnephew attends Upper Cannabis College. It is enough to make the most dedicated punster and lover of cute humour cry out.

The Brigadier-General can spell better than Charlie Farquharson, but his jokes come from the same places. Perhaps humour about this country’s history can be sustained over 219 pages; I don’t believe Orland French has managed it yet.


French, Orland, “File 23: The Shocking Truth about Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,