How I Flew the Forties


194 pages
ISBN 0-920316-55-7





Reviewed by Jerry McDonnell

Jerry McDonnell was a teacher and librarian the F.E. Madill Secondary School in Wingham, Ontario.


O’Callaghan grew up in a carefully circumscribed (both physically and socially) part of Edmonton. The railway surrounded the area. Other boundaries included being a student in the Catholic school system, having a stepfather, and the social strictures of the period.

The book unfolds episodically, with many asides or tangents along the way. Sometimes the chronological development is fractured in order to develop themes or to complete episodes, but this can serve to enhance coherence.

It is virtually impossible to stand back from incidents such as the time firecrackers were placed in the thurible at church, or O’Callaghan’s major rift with his stepfather. The writing at these points is very immediate and involving. At other times, the stifling atmosphere of the era is evoked, particularly in some of the school scenes, where boys and girls are treated differently, as are bright and dull students.

This book is difficult to read quickly because of the somewhat convoluted style, but overall it is a very interesting story.


O'Callaghan, William J., “How I Flew the Forties,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,