Reading Between the Lines: Piecing Together the Life of Elizabeth Boyd McDougall


33 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-9685257-3-3
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Olga Costopoulos

Olga Costopoulos teaches English at the University of Alberta.


The title is the first of many clichés in Shirley Serviss’s second
collection. The author explains in a foreword that she does “not claim
to have captured the Elizabeth Boyd McDougall some still living today
knew and loved. [Her] version is informed by [her] own experience as a
wife, stepmother, mother and westerner and [her] own experience of

The poems are written from the point of view of McDougall or of Serviss
herself. They would perhaps have been more successful as a short essay.
The work is doubtless well-intentioned, but intention cannot redeem it:
it is dull, prosaic, and plodding, as the following should demonstrate:
“Our horses hobble their way west, / legs bruised and bleeding from
breaking / the hard crust of snow. They lift one / hoof at a time only
at our cruel urging.” Arbitrary breaking of prose into lines does not
make poetry.


Serviss, Shirley A., “Reading Between the Lines: Piecing Together the Life of Elizabeth Boyd McDougall,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024,