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  • By Ann Rivers
    Dec 4, 2018
    Licence to Drive Review by Neil MacRae 21.06.2009 Ann Diamond’s new book is gripping in its drama and its poignancy. It tells the story of Anne McAllister, a little girl handed over by her parents – driven by combined self-interest and “patriotism” – in the mid-1950s to become a subject of psychological experiments connected with those performed at the Allan Memorial Institute. Ms. Diamond’s writing is by turns lyrical and engaging, brutally direct, sinister and unsettling. During the Second World War, Nazi scientists and physicians performed bizarre experiments upon concentration camp prisoners. After the war, many Nazi engineers were brought to the US to work at NASA. Throughout the Cold War, extra-legal and cynically immoral activities were undertaken by Western governments to outpace the Soviets in intelligence gathering. In Montreal, the “mental hygiene” and “psychic-driving” experiments of Dr. D. Ewen Cameron were funded by the CIA. And across Canada, children were taken from... More > their homes and made victims of terrible abuse in residential schools. These varied abuses, of individuals and of the public trust, occurred with government complicity — all justified by “the national interest,” and all of it documented. This is the large context of “A Certain Girl.” Read as historical fiction, the book works well. The narrative is elliptical, vague and sometimes confusing, coming from a protagonist who has been beaten, subjected to sensory deprivation and fed hallucinogens. The very fact that we don’t know exactly what is happening, nor always what to believe, drags us viscerally into the story. By the end, we don’t merely empathize with little Anne McAllister’s suffering and outrage: it has become our own. As history (or memoir) however, Ann Diamond’s book is seriously flawed: she gathers together documented facts and conjecture in such a way as to imply that it is all provable truth. Perhaps the venom she directs at the Duplessis government, the Catholic Church, the Anglo-Montreal establishment and McGill University is meant to create the measure of skepticism that should inspire her readers to further investigation. If so, then that works. Regardless, having read “A Certain Girl,” it would seem impossible to walk past the Royal Victoria Hospital and look up the mountain at Ravenscrag without being washed over by a bitter chill. Neil MacRae is a poet and musician recently moved to Montreal. •< Less
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Product Details

ISBN
9780557022939
Edition
First
Publisher
DiamondBack Books
Published
August 23, 2015
Language
English
Pages
210
Binding
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
Weight
0.82 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6 wide x 9 tall
Product ID
22328917
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