Reviews - Craigflower Country
A disgruntled reviewer and a reader's reply
Times-Colonist, December 1993
Not all reviewers approved of Craigflower Country. The Times-Colonist critic didn't have a good word to say for it (nor for Dr. Peter Smith's popular history of the University of Victoria, harshly attacked in the same column).
In his long preamble the resident reviewer says that most local history isn't much worth mentioning, "It's folklore, it's what people believe. Craigflower Country is one recent piece of folklore ... The text isn't very important. Part one is mostly a rehash of material from elsewhere with a certain amount of opinion thrown in for no apparent reason. Part two is called Stories and Reminiscences and ... has little historical merit."
He continues: "Craigflower Country is historically a recognizable area, but until recently View Royal was just a state of mind. The colonial history of the area, which lasted for less than 20 years, belongs to Fort Victoria, and the next 70 or so years of the area's story forms in integral part of Esquimalt's history ... Today I can't even find the place on one city map."
"Technically the book is a gathering of random bits that offers a much white-washed, and many will say WASP, view of certain aspects of a community's past. Future historians may mine the book for details, but will snort at the mistakes, the confusion and unsubstantiated statements. The rest of us can be thankful for the photos and illustrations."
The Times-Colonist published a letter to the editor a few days after this December, 1993 attack:
[The reviewer] has accused the book's editor of trying to pass off her opinions, various anecdotes and hearsay as history. That would be acceptable if it was true but [he] proceeds to state that "accurate as some of the details may be ...".
Either the details are accurate of they are not. He admits they are accurate, Why, then would he say the "text isn't very important"? Surely a factual text is important in a book of local history.
He writes about many mistakes but doesn't list any. He writes about confusion but doesn't elaborate. He writes about unsubstantiated statements and leaves it at that. His sentence is the ultimate in unsubstantiated statement.
Finally, he talks about the WASP view of View Royal. For better or worse, early View Royal was largely white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Does Lillard want the editor to revise history to become politically correct? Surely not.
It's easy to see why his column is called An Audience of One. A more responsible book reviewer would have a larger audience.
Allan Murray, Chairman, View Royal Historical Committee
Another reader agreed with the letter-writer: "I have purchased and am just about finished reading Craigflower Country, and I must say that I think that is an extremely excellent, and, from other things that I have read on the subject, an historically accurate account. ... I very much resent the attack on [the author's] journalistic integrity." (From a letter to Alan Murray, December, 1993)
(The town of View Royal, incorporated eight years before the book was published, is only four miles from the office of the newspaper carrying the review.)
View Royal is an odd little piece of geography surrounded by four other municipalities and a lot of water. The shoreline includes numerous bays, coves, rocks and beaches of Esquimalt Harbour, and Portage Inlet, the upper reaches of a tidal salt water fiord running inland from Victoria Harbour - the Gorge.
The town, incorporated in 1988, is sliced into three parts by two major highways which transport thousands daily on their way to somewhere else, and two historic railways, one endangered, the other abandoned. Within the boundaries of the new town are the remains of a 19th century Hudson's Bay Company farm; two celebrated roadhouses; Thetis Lake and its surrounding forest; some of the least known choice residential property of Greater Victoria, and a substantial group of residents fighting fiercely to preserve what's left of the rural ambience.
Visit the Town of View Royal web site.
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