Friday 9 February 2018

Book ~ "The Toronto Book of the Dead" (2017) Adam Bunch

From Goodreads ~ Exploring Toronto’s history through the stories of its most fascinating and shadowy deaths.

If these streets could talk ...

With morbid tales of war and plague, duels and executions, suicides and séances, Toronto’s past is filled with stories whose endings were anything but peaceful. "The Toronto Book of the Dead" delves into these: from ancient First Nations burial mounds to the grisly murder of Toronto’s first lighthouse keeper; from the rise and fall of the city’s greatest Victorian baseball star to the final days of the world’s most notorious anarchist.

Toronto has witnessed countless lives lived and lost as it grew from a muddy little frontier town into a booming metropolis of concrete and glass. "The Toronto Book of the Dead" tells the tale of the ever-changing city through the lives and deaths of those who made it their final resting place. 

I live in Toronto and I'm always looking for books about the history of Toronto so that's why this one caught my eye.

The stories are all focused on death with a Toronto connection.  The first story is about the discovery of a 700-year-old mass grave while they were building a subdivision in Scarborough in the 1950s.  The last story is about the death of Garry Hoy, a 38-year-old lawyer who in 1993 tested the window on the 24th floor in his downtown office building by hurling his body at it only to have the window pop out. 

Other stories include the War of 1812 when the Americans attacked Fort York, the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse ghost, cholera in the early 1800s, a connection of Toronto's first black licensed doctor to Abraham Lincoln's death, passenger pigeons (which are now extinct), Sir Henry Pellatt of Casa Loma fame, Ruth Lowe who wrote the song that launched Frank Sinatra's career, Lucy Maud Montgomery's suicide, Hurricane Hazel, the fire that destroyed the ship the Noronic, Jim Black who was first Canadian AIDS patient to go public, and more.  At the back of the book, there is an extensive bibliography and suggestions for further reading.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book but I found it interesting.  I liked the writing style.  It was written in a straight-forward manner with not a lot of details but just enough.  When I came across something especially interesting I wanted to know more about, I would stop and Google the subject for more information.  I think anyone living in Toronto (and elsewhere) would find this book worth reading.

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