The Fair Land: Saanich


132 pages
ISBN 0-919203-04-3






Reviewed by Lee J. McKenna


In this work author Betty Bell sets out to capture the charm of her childhood years in Saanich in the countryside of Vancouver Island. Her reminiscences of Edwardian life in a prosperous farming community devoted largely to orchards are evocative of an era vastly different in tempo from our own time. In this slim volume we are treated to well-written descriptions of such past delights as the Victoria & Sydney Railway, known locally as “The Cordwood Limited” due to its fuel supply. We also indulge in a nostalgic and mouthwatering description of the wares displayed at an annual fair. Details of rooms so crammed with possessions that “everywhere one’s eyes strayed something of interest could be discovered” (p.63) bring to mind a style of design favoured by our grandparents. It is at these cosy moments that author Bell is at her best. Her desire to be historically accurate in other areas leads to rather tedious listings of the names of consecutive householders and incumbent ministers. While one applauds the effort, it is tempting to rush right by to read how the coming of electricity altered life or to enjoy amusing anecdotes of family boating trips. A collection of archival photographs, a brief bibliography, and a clear map will help make this book useful to the student of the area. While the book will be of absorbing interest to those already familiar with the Saanich Peninsula, it is well worth a browse for others with a taste for the simple life.


Bell, Betty, “The Fair Land: Saanich,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 25, 2024,