Douglas & McIntyre

Reviews of “Conversations with a Dead Man”

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Conversations with a Dead Man

Conversations with a Dead Man

November 2013

“Abley creates an extremely interesting and readable scenario- invoking a Dickensian-like visit of a ghost from the past… deftly reveals a dark and not very well known period of Canadian history…”

The Link, CBC, Nov 18, 2013
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Conversations with a Dead Man

Conversations with a Dead Man

November 2013

“Required reading…a necessary book”

The Next Chapter, CBC, Nov 18, 2013
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Conversations with a Dead Man

Conversations with a Dead Man

November 2013

"Resurrecting Scott in the pages of the book involved having his lifelike ghost materialize at random intervals in the author’s present-day home. Intent on restoring his posthumous reputation, he’s visible and audible only to his host, who gets drafted into the role of an extremely skeptical Boswell; highly charged and brilliantly rendered conversations ensue. A potentially gimmicky device turns out to be an ingenious choice, drawing the reader into a subject that might otherwise have looked like impossibly heavy going…a book that should by rights help redress a long-standing imbalance in the study of Canadian history…"

Montreal Gazette, Nov 9, 2013
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Conversations with a Dead Man

Conversations with a Dead Man

November 2013

“Abley has produced something seemingly inconceivable: an intelligent, absorbing and, yes, entertaining book about an infamous Canadian villain who oversaw residential schools at the height of their brutality toward Aboriginal peoples… Abley analyzes Scott’s poetry and policies, struggling with the paradox of his life: how could a poet write so empathetically about Aboriginal people and consign their children to merciless assimilation, abuse and death?

Abley tries to answer this by summoning the poet-bureaucrat’s ghost to speak for himself. The ghostly Scott has feelings, wit and a great memory for verse. This is a work of non-fiction greased with significant artistic licence. In each chapter Abley covers historical ground and pursues a dialogue with Scott about it. They banter, argue and scold.

At first the reader will find this preposterous. As the pages turn, however, what seemed like a cheap narrative ploy becomes a serious method to understand Scott on his own terms… Abley’s act of radical empathy makes it harder to turn the page on a chapter of our history we might otherwise slam shut.”

Maclean’s Magazine, Nov 8, 2013
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Conversations with a Dead Man

Conversations with a Dead Man

November 2013

"Compelling ... probing ... one can't help but keep turning the pages, wanting desperately, like Abley, to gain clarity on Scott's actions. Commendably, Abley has addressed a highly charged question in a balanced, compassionate manner." - Kimberly Bourgeois

Montreal Review of Books, Nov 8, 2013
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