At Face Value, Second Edition
The Life and Times of Eliza McCormack/John White
Spins the tale of John White, a trusty Tory backbencher in Canada’s post-Confederation Parliament who was unusually sympathetic to women and Indigenous communities.
At Face Value spins the tale of John White, a trusty Tory backbencher in Canada’s post-Confederation Parliament who was unusually sympathetic to women and Indigenous communities. Hewing closely to the archival record, it nevertheless diverges on one crucial point, reimagining White as a woman named Eliza McCormack.
In this Canadian take on Moll Flanders, Don Akenson constructs a past in which people felt free to live in the gender of their own choosing, revealing the assumptions with which gender labels are freighted and the self-empowerment available to those who reject them. Following Eliza from her birth in 1832, amid the Irish cholera panic, At Face Value recounts her blacksmithing apprenticeship, a difficult passage to Canada, an unconventional marriage, and the peaks and valleys of her political career. In Eliza, Akenson offers readers a correction to the male-dominated historical record and an unforgettable literary heroine.
Shortlisted for the Trillium Prize when it was released in 1990, this classic Canadian novel has only gained relevance in the thirty years since. At Face Value offers a window into the past and a mirror for the present.
"A wonderful postmodern, post-feminist, historically grounded fictional elaboration of cultural depth, political importance and literary delight ... [It is] a treasure - not buried, just discovered by too few Canadian readers." The Globe and Mail