Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Small Details of Life: Twenty Diaries by Women in Canada, 1830-1996

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Small Details of Life: Twenty Diaries by Women in Canada, 1830-1996

Article excerpt

Kathryn Carter (ed.), The Small Details of Life: Twenty Diaries by Women in Canada, 1830-1996 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press), xi + 486pp. Cloth. £35. ISBN 0-8020-4339-9. Paper. £15. ISBN 0-8020-8159-2.

The subtitle of Kathryn Carter's edited collection is somewhat of a misnomer. Rather than Twenty Diaries by Women in Canada it should instead read Excerpts from Twenty Diaries by White Women in Canada. We are offered selected entries from twenty unpublished diaries, some held in archives, some in private hands, written by twenty women of varying ages and from different backgrounds between 1830-1996. All of the diarists are white, which, in a multicultural country like Canada, raises the question: why no contributions from non-white women? Carter's explanation, while credible, points to an almost incomprehensible void that will, perhaps, one day be filled. The role of the journal in the lives of non-white and indigenous women, especially in contemporary times, is surely a topic worthy of study.

In other respects, Carter is to be congratulated for the diversity and comprehensiveness of her selections and for her insightful introduction, which explores the nature of history, of diary writing and the creation by the diarist of a reflective, private self (current debate could, however, have been more in evidence in the endnotes). The topics that Carter broaches in her introduction are incorporated by the contributors into their forewords. For example, Nanci Langford connects changes in Sophie Alice Puckette's handwriting to developments of her 'self ': 'as her personal confidence grows and a stronger sense of self emerges, her handwriting enlarges, becomes more sprawling and free' (p. …

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