Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Massey Murder

Starting the summer off with some true, patriot love, I finished Charlotte Gray's The Massey Murder this afternoon.  It's not a typical title that I would choose, but I wanted to read it because:
a) Ever since Charlotte Gray demo'ed her razor-sharp wit and debating skills during CBC's Canada Reads 2013 debates, I've been promising myself I would read something of hers
b) It's non-fiction.  My literary conscience tells me I need to read more of that.
c) It's KW's "One Book, One Community" selection for this year and the book nerd in me needs to be a part of these kinds of things.

So it turns out that Gray had every right to be critical of the books in the Canada Reads competition.  She can write.  Not only that, but she gives narrative to history that makes it more accessible for readers like me who are all about the story.

She also gives a voice to the voiceless in this book.  Subtitled, "A Maid, Her Master and the Trial That Shocked a Country," this book offers best guesses as to what really happened when Bert Massey was shot by his maid when entering his house one February evening in Toronto, 1915.  Gray highlights how Carrie's (the maid's) voice was hardly needed or given consideration in a male-dominated, morally-motivated and class-driven society.

I like this quote: "Servants are everywhere and nowhere in history.  Carrie and women like her worked too hard to have any energy left for writing diaries or letters, and if any of them did manage to scribble down something, it has probably been lost.  When a youngster like Carrie went into service, she walked into the shadows." (p. 90)

Gray does an excellent job of putting Carrie Davies' story in context.  She provides background on the famous Massey family, the Toronto newspaper wars, class divisions, and Canada's place in WWI, which gives the story significance not only in the changing tides of 1915, but also today.

My one complaint about the book is that is the writing seems to mellow or loosen by the end.  Initial chapters give the impression that the book is leading to something greater and more powerful at the end.  But maybe that was intentional.  I'll have to think on that a little longer.

Anyway, it's definitely worth reading and if anybody wants to join me at the September 2014 author visits where this book will be discussed, do let me know. ;)

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