cover image FARLEY: The Life of Farley Mowat

FARLEY: The Life of Farley Mowat

James King, . . Steerforth, $27.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-1-58642-055-0

Mowat, the octogenarian writer who has probably sold more books than any other Canadian author, is for many not an easy person to like. English professor King, the author of a biography of Virginia Woolf among others, generally gives Mowat the benefit of the doubt in this authorized life. Mowat, whose 38 books include novels, wilderness adventures and chronicles of indigenous peoples' struggle to survive, has been accused of exaggerations or outright falsehoods in his nonfiction books. King recognizes the existence of some blurred lines, but suggests that Mowat's books relate essential truths even if they stray from strict adherence to fact. Mowat lived all over Canada during childhood as his cold, eccentric librarian father sought new experiences; Mowat continued his treks as an adult, moving where he wanted when he wanted, demonstrating less than full sensitivity to the needs of his two wives. The second, Claire, stuck with him, though; King's lively portrayal of her is one of the biography's strengths. Mowat's moodiness can be dizzying, as King suggests by calling the section covering the years 1977–1984 "Prophet of Doom," then titling the section from 1984 through today "Keeper of the Faith." King makes the case that Mowat's legacy is on balance positive, as he has provided millions of readers with a blueprint for global salvation in a polluting age. The answer is basically this—those living on the land or at sea must live in peace with nature, and must win over those who are not doing so. King suggests convincingly that Mowat has found redemption for his personal sins through his writing. B&w photos. (Jan. 10)