Edited By Nancy Southam

McClelland & Stewart

Nancy Southam, friend and neighbour of Pierre Trudeau, has compiled stories and anecdotes about the late Prime Minister. She used two yardsticks to measure the inclusion of the stories: were they interesting, and “What would Pierre think?”

Whether one loved or hated PET (and very few were neutral), these stories reveal a fascinating and complex man. Chapters are grouped loosely around topics such as “Faith,” “Inside the PMO,” and “Canoe Gang,” and contributors are both friends and enemies. In at least two cases the same story is told, with two very different conclusions drawn by the contributors; this just adds to the mystique. According to actor Christopher Plummer, “What Glenn Gould was to Bach, Trudeau was to Canada. He interpreted it with a freshness that was bold and original.”

I am part of the generation that was entering adulthood when Trudeaumania swept the country. John Fraser captures the essence of this phenomenon when he describes himself as a young reporter watching Trudeau on the floor of the House of Commons: “Trudeau was looking all around the legislature, when suddenly he looked up. I smiled and he let out a huge grin. Oh, I melted, just melted. He was my leader then and there.” And, as poet Jim Harrison astutely notes about 1968, “The world leapt into something larger.”

Decades later, I was one of those who stood alongside the train tracks one golden September morning to watch Trudeau’s body being taken to its final resting place. The distillation of the years in between has been lovingly captured by Nancy Southam. mRb