Book Reviews by J. Patrick Boyer

The Happy Islands

Stories and Sketches of the Georgian Bay

Marlow A. Shaw

If you enjoy canoeing, Georgian Bay, and good story telling, The Happy Islands will captivate you because it offers all three in a single book. You'd be captivated, that is, if you could get your hands on this treasure.

The book pictured here is a $2 hardcover edition of 254 pages, with a number of decorative illustrations by artist Thoreau MacDonald. It's been out-of-print for decades.

The Light of Other Days

Cecil Porter, et al.

Severn Bridge was Muskoka's first settler community but the second, Gravenhurst, became the largest and most prominent for many years because it was, as the town's slogan still reminds us, the "Gateway to Muskoka" coming north.

No other town in Muskoka has so long and richly diverse a history: steamships, railhead, sawmills enough for the nickname of Sawdust City, the Rubberset factory, tuberculosis sanatorium, prisoner-of-war camp, Ontario Fire College, decades of Concert-on-the-Barge entertainment, the Norman Bethune phenomenon, trophy-winning teams in hockey, lacrosse, baseball, curling, plus a trap-shooting club and Sloan's blue-berry pies.

The Night the Mice Danced the Quadrille

Thomas Osborne

People fetched up in Muskoka's backwoods in early days of settlement for the strangest reasons.

Fourteen year old Thomas Osborne, accompanied by his younger brother Arthur, travelled first by train, boat, and a horse-drawn buckboard until it broke down, then trekked the last 21 miles on foot to Huntsville and east, through terrain they did not know and at night, where roads were often non-existent, to find their father William Osborne.

The Summer Before the Storm

Gabriele Wills

Because Muskokans come in two forms—the permanent and part-time residents—the relationship between them is a rich vein to mine for writers who set their stories in the district. Few have found as much gold here as novelist Gabriele Wills, who now has to her credit a trilogy of Muskoka historical fiction.

The Villages of Muskoka

Port Sydney Past –George H. Johnson
Windermere –Richard Tatley
Rosseau: The Early Years –Rosseau Historical Society
Rosseau: Then and Now –Rosseau Historical Society

Many Muskoka villages are blessed with local histories describing their colourful stories, courageous families, good fortunes, and tragic twists from 1800s settlement to recent times.

Richard Tatley, the Gravenhurst historian widely known for his books on Muskoka's steamboats, turned his assiduous attention to a village which came into existence thanks to steamboat traffic and in 1999 published the results of his researches in Windermere: The Jewel of Lake Rosseau.

Theatrical Muskoka glows in the spotlight

The Many Stages of Our Lives –Joe Stratford
Straw Hats and Greasepaint: 50 Years of Theatre in the Summer Colony. The Actors’ Colony Story, 1934–1942 –Scott McClellan

Behind the stage sets of Muskoka's long-running theatre scene are many additional dramas and plots. A number of Muskoka authors share these back-stage sagas and off-stage adventures in the course of telling the remarkable tale of how legitimate theatre has assumed many forms within Muskoka from the district's inception.

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