With four weeks on the bestseller list in Winnipeg, Ravenscraig, is finding an audience among both family history enthusiasts as well as people who have a fascination with the Titanic and Winnipeg’s connection to the great disaster. I am grateful and so pleased that there is such a strong interest in stories about how the early immigrants managed in a city that was the fastest growing in the Dominion of Canada.
This week, Bernie Bellan posted his review of Ravenscraig in the Winnipeg Jewish Post and News saying it provides “a fascinating insight into early Jewish migration into Winnipeg.”
Where “Ravenscraig” excels, however, and no doubt why it has become an immediate best-seller locally, is in its description of Winnipeg at the turn of the 20th century and certain key events that are probably unknown to most readers.
For instance, a major typhoid outbreak in 1905 becomes a centerpiece of the novel. In her description of the horrible living conditions of the bulk of the immigrant population in Winnipeg, Krawchenko Altner does a fine job of evoking the misery that accompanied life for so many of our grandparents and great-grandparents.
At the same time the level of corruption in which Winnipeg’s Anglo Saxon leaders engaged is also quite astounding and is brought to life on the pages of this book. “Ravenscraig’ devotes a fair bit of space to the issue of red-light houses in the city and how it was that police and elected officials not only turned a blind eye to the prostitution that was conducted so openly, those same officials profited hugely from its practice.
Bernie Bellan is the editor of the Winnipeg Jewish Post and News, and has a particular affection for Jewish history in Winnipeg. When we talked last week I was delighted to discuss not only Ravenscraig, but also the work of his grandfather, Ruben Bellan, an economics professor who wrote a very informative history book that is in my collection of Manitoba rare books. Winnipeg’s First Century: An Economic History provides a solid road map of sources for those who are interested in further study of Winnipeg’s development.
In his review, Bernie also mentions Allan Levine’s, Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba. This is a fantastic work that is rich with detail and inspiring stories. Allan has also written a most enjoyable series of historical novels set in Winnipeg that I heartily recommend. These are the Sam Klein mysteries. Allan and I went to high school together at Garden City Collegiate and it was wonderful to see him at the Ravenscraig launch in Winnipeg. Allan’s latest book King, has also just been released.
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