othing beats social history and Patricia Burns' The Shamrock and the Shield is a healthy dose.
Burns interviewed a few dozen people who mostly dwelled in the Griffintown area of Montreal. The text is an edited collection of these interviews. It is fortunate that efforts were made to gather these stories before the colourful people who inhabited Irish Montreal all pass on, as some of whom Burns interviewed already have.
Each narrator has a unique perspective on life and it is fascinating to notice certain events and people re-emerge throughout the book. These memories are of a different time, when people didn't lock their doors and women weren't afraid to walk home at night. They tell of the days of horse-drawn carriages and a sense of community.
Even though they survived the depression and several wars these people are, for the most part, very positive about their recollections. It is enjoyable to watch them reminisce old faces and places.
The one complaint I have is that many of these stories could be whole books unto themselves! There is not enough room to develop narratives sometimes, and the book can be a little overwhelming unless you read it in several sittings. The Shamrock and the Shield is a book to savour.
This is one of the many books in the "Dossier Québec Series" and we can be thankful Véhicule Press is providing us with these valuable documents of history and life.
published by véhicule press