Book Reviews by J. Patrick Boyer

Muskoka Serves Up Cookbooks

One unsolved Muskoka mystery is how many cookbooks have been published in the district over the years. But one thing is sure: Muskoka's uncountable cookbooks reveal a close connection between food and community.

Over the past four decades, for instance, as fame of Canada's largest cranberry growing operation around Bala in west Muskoka spread, the compilers of Muskoka cookbooks began including more recipes that feature the cranberry's distinctive flavour, colour, and tartness.

Muskoka Trees

A History of Walker's Point and Barlochan, Muskoka – 1870 to 1970

Joyce I. Schell

A new Barlochan resident asked recently, after I'd addressed Gravenhurst Probus on the development of Muskoka books, if I knew anything about a work on his small Muskoka community's history.

The out-of-print book in question is The Years Gone By: A History of Walker's Point and Barlochan, Muskoka – 1870 to 1970, by Joyce I. Schell, descendent of a pioneer Barlochan family and first woman elected to the combined Medora-Wood council. My father Robert J. Boyer, keen to preserve and promote early Muskoka history, happily published Joyce's captivating account 40 years ago.

Muskoka Woods

The Fossmill Story –Doug & Paul Mackey
When Giants Fall –Gary Long, Randy Whiteman
Timber Empire –Grace Barker

Muskoka's trees define our district's history, determine our economic wellbeing, and provide the scenic backdrop for our tourism economy.

Muskoka's Early Land Issues

For this environment-focused edition of Muskoka Magazine we look at how land use issues began with the very first days of settlement, logging, farming, and tourism.

Because the politics and economics of land use, then as today, largely depend on one's appraisal of the "environment," 1860s Muskoka clearly faced fundamental problems: a number of dreamers and policy-makers jostled with incompatible visions of the district's future.

No Return

A novel of the Canadian election that vanished in Muskoka’s backwoods

Gordon Aiken

The second election after Confederation in 1872 produced elected representatives from every constituency in Canada but one – the District of Muskoka.

Years later Gordon Aiken, who represented the same district in parliament, unearthed the strange tale of Muskoka's returning officer Richard Bell who refused to declare Liberal candidate A.P. Cockburn elected even though he won most votes. This ground-breaking event led to Bell being ordered to give an accounting of himself before the bar of the House of Commons, the first time a Canadian was so summonsed. It was also the first and only time in Canadian history an MP would be elected to parliament directly by members of the Commons itself. The episode also contributed to reforms of Canadian election law, such as introduction of the secret ballot.


Douglas J. Specht

Glossary: "Nokomis" is Ojibway for grandmother, the name of a boat that mysteriously disappeared with its owner in a Muskoka lake, and the title of Douglas Specht's just published novel.

Specht's fiction opens with a September 4, 1968 newspaper report on the death of Muskoka summer resident Walter Morgan from Pittsburg, the boat's owner and driver, giving facts known at press time. That version is incomplete: why was only half of Morgan's shattered boat Nokomis found, his body finally recovered far from the scene, or no cause given for either the late night boating accident or his death? Those crucial details never got filled in as interest in the case disappeared into the fogs of time.

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