When I couldn’t figure out what to read after the latest Dennis Lehane novel and before Don Winslow’s forthcoming epic due out later this month (The Force), Alaina handed me a book that she had been suggesting I read for a while now – Will Ferguson’s “Bastards & Boneheads”. Annoyed with the same old criteria for evaluating Canada’s leaders past and present, Ferguson breaks everyone down into two categories – you’re either a hard-nosed, uncompromising bastard, or a clueless bonehead who mostly stumbled into success or wallowed in failure.
As a kid in grade school, I was taught Canadian history and try as I might, I couldn’t find it in me to care. The subject matter just didn’t line up with my interests, which isn’t surprising considering all I wanted to do was watch professional wrestling, play video games and eat snacks – wait, has anything changed? I guess now that I’m a bit older, my curiosity has gotten the better of me. I actually do care how this country was founded and developed! I do want to learn about important historical figures and events! I suppose I’m a grown-up now.
If only all history texts could be written like this! With Bastards and Boneheads, Ferguson painstakingly researched the men and women who helped shape Canada and with the help of a healthy dose of snark, produces an entertaining AND informative read. If you thought Canada was this tremendous country without blemishes, you’ll think twice after reading Ferguson’s book. Whether it’s our mistreatment of the Native population, the mistreatment of early Acadian settlers, the mistreatment of the French population, Canada’s unapologetic racism during the Second World War.. it all adds up to an often embarrassing history.
It’s not all bad though! Ferguson does write about several Canadians with impressive histories such as Laura Secord, Agnes MacPhail, Louis Riel and many others. He writes of bloody battles within Canada and around the globe. The last chunk of the book details Canada’s 20 (up to then) Prime Ministers as he tries to rank them from impressive to idiotic. His write ups on former Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney are interesting as both are memorable for completely different reasons (Ferguson declares Mulroney to be the worst PM in Canada’s history).
Bastards & Boneheads is a great read for someone who perceived Canadian history to be “boring”. It is a relatively quick read clocking in at just under 300 pages (before sources/glossary), so I was done before I knew it. Luckily, I’m not left wanting more as he has a variety of books to grab next.