A Sample of Reviews of A Chronicle of Lower Canada

Eric Kierans says:

“Jan Morgan’s trilogy is a narrative history of Lower Canada’s struggle in the 1830’s to achieve responsible government. This concluding volume describes the escalating battles of a powerless Assembly with appointed Governors and executive councils, an autocratic oligarchy, responsible only to Westminster. Result - the tragic descent into the armed rebellions of 1837-38.

“Jan Morgan is as faithful to the course of events as any historian. The research is prodigious and she goes beyond the political to deal with the social, cultural and religious influences of the period.

“To carry all of this, one needs a story. Enter a young Irish emigrant, one of the few fictional figures, who becomes a journalist reporting on the Assembly and the government. The story merges the ubiquitous O’Donell’s life with the customs, beliefs, trials and tribulations of real families, times and places. “The Chronicle brings the whole period alive and is a triumph of historical imagination, a sure candidate for a Governor-General’s prize.”

Book I, Welcome Niall O'Donell, Emigrant!

"Niall O'Donell was a young Irishman who fled his native land for Canada in 1828. Just recently, his great-granddaughter, rummaging through the attic of her house in the Upper Laurentians, found a trunk full of Niall's diaries. And remarkable diaries they are.

Only four years are covered in this account released by the great-granddaughter, (though there will be later volumes). But in those four years, Niall was a close observer of life in the colony of Lower Canada and a frequent rubber of shoulders with the leading figures of colonial life. Nor was it only shoulders he rubbed. The great grand-daughter may well have been shocked at the seamier episodes of Niall's life, but she included all he wrote about them.

As one reads this book, one naturally wonders why such a compelling person as Niall O'Donell has until now been an unknown figure. Part of the reason, one suspects, is that he never existed. There was no Niall, no diaries and, for that matter, no great-granddaughter. The whole thing is a delightful invention of Jan Henry Morgan.

After years of painstaking research - and, it must be said, remarkably effective research - Mrs. Morgan has put together a blend of history and fiction that is more accurate than most history and more entertaining than most fiction. She promises a second volume. I look forward to it."

Graham Decarie, Chairman, History Department, Concordia University, Montreal in The Quebecer, Spring, 1993

"No reader in the 1990's who becomes caught up in Jan Morgan's account of the approaches to the social breakdown of the 1830s can fail to make comparisons and to ask questions about the present. This is history that makes one impatient with stereotypes and rigid classifications of people and their feelings and ways. Then as now, the lives of peoples who are similar in many ways, and yet often find each other threatening, inter-penetrate and interact in infinitely complex ways. One find both immensely sympathetic characters and bigoted, nasty creatures in all camps and in every setting. And in the 1830s, as in the 1990s, the outside world impinges as emigrants arrive and change the complexion of things, as trade waxes and ebbs, and unpredictable new actors send plans into disarray. Besides the sheer pleasure of winding one's way into a different era, Jan Morgan's book offers insights into what we find ourselves enmeshed in today. Read Welcome Niall O'Donell, Emigrant! and get ready for the second volume."

From a review by Dr. Michael Oliver, political scientist and former President of Carleton University, in Dialogue, Spring, 1993.

Book II, A Dangerous Direction

"When Jan Morgan was on her book tour last year promoting her enchanting docu-novel, Welcome Niall O'Donell, Emigrant!, she said there would be a sequel in 1993 and here it is. And there's more to come because this is to be a long series; her love of Canadian history, her avid enjoyment of research, and her writing talents combine to make the continuing Chronicle of Lower Canada a promised delight.

Mrs. Morgan's professional career, aside from writing, has been in education, with a wider than usual experience. School board administration, history teaching, guidance, computer science, and more - and now this incredible series which surrounds fact with fiction in such a wily fashion one sometimes loses the fine line between the two.

Purists could argue the result is deceptive. Well, they have a point, but the result is just about as interesting as any historical novel can get. The books are long, full of authentic source material, and most of the characters are real people who took part in the molding of Canada in the early 19th century.

The index shows the fictional characters in italics so serious students will know for sure, but this author knows her subject so well that even her made-up people seem to have lived at the time. Maybe they did. They could have."

Rosaleen Dixon,History with a Novel Twist, Ottawa Hill Times, December 16, 1993.

Book III, A Damned Rebellion!

Historical Novel shows Quebec Issues not New

Author Jan Morgan's latest historical novel, A Damned Rebellion!, is out just in time for the referendum.

This fascinating chronicle of the colony of Lower Canada from January 1835 to the end of the first rebellion in December 1837 is the continuation of Morgan's two previous books of this trilogy. With 58 chapters, lavishly illustrated with historical drawings, many of Quebec city, this third book continues to recount the life of a fictitious character, Niall O'Donell, who as an orphaned Irish lad of 14 arrived in Quebec City in 1828.

His marriage to Agnes, the youngest daughter of John Neilson - former member of the Legislative Assembly and editor of the Quebec Gazette, today's Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph - sets the character in position to record the historical developments of the rebellion of Lower Canada.

Niall's life is interwoven with the historical realities of politics in Lower Canada as he covers the events of the Assembly and the government as a journalist.

There is a blend of Niall's fictional writings intertwined with the rich source of supporting documents, letters and writings of the real characters who influenced the political life of Lower Canada and its turbulent historic events at that period.

As for the comparison with the current referendum campaign, Jan Morgan writes, 'For events which occurred more than 160 years ago, they are remarkably current. Papineau and his Patriotes have many points of comparison with Parizeau and his Péquistes. The differences are as interesting as the similarities.' " From Mike Reshitnyk's review, in the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, October 14, 1995

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