Book Reviews, YA Book Club for Writers

Book Club Review: City on Strike by Harriet Zaidman

The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike was a key moment in Canadian history when demands of workers and returning soldiers all played out in the bloody streets of Winnipeg. The governing elite condemned the strike organizers as “Bolsheviks” and unleashed waves of violence. The country hasn’t fully healed since.

City on Strike is a riveting middle-grade fiction focusing on a 13-year-old boy and his younger sister, part of a poor but hardworking immigrant family in Winnipeg’s North End. And like so many others, it’s a family that gets drawn into the chaos that terrible spring.

“History often repeats itself ” author Harriet Zaidman says “In 1919 more than 30,000 people in Winnipeg went on strike. Those in authority wanted to maintain their power and profits, so they spread lies and stirred up racism to create divisions in society. Today there are still those who make harmful statements about different groups. These negative comments prevent society from being united and making advances. Canadians need to know the history of the Strike, which teaches us that we need to look behind the message, to make choices that unify society and give everyone a chance to fulfill their potential.”

2019-07-01 09.20.13

Our thoughts about this book:

This middle grade novel was timely released to celebrate the 100th anniversary since the Winnipeg General Strike happened in 1919.

The story covers the details of the strike quite well, it’s easy to see that it’s been well researched. The setting captured old Winnipeg in a realistic way, making the world-building a strength in this book.

We were all disappointed that the characters were not more well rounded. A book club member said of the characterization, “I don’t want a protagonist observing the story, I want a protagonist moving the story.” There was more tell than show.

The story was told from two points of view, a brother and sister with the same view of the issues at stake. It was difficult to tell whose chapter we were reading as the voices were similar. We felt the story would have been more well rounded if told from two different view points, a young person from each side of the labour issues to give a fuller look at the whole situation.

One of our members also mentioned that the importance of the Winnipeg General Strike was that it was the first of it’s kind in the world and made world news. This was not made mention in the book and we thought it would have added a great deal to the story to have this knowledge.

The climax of the novel was very well done, and gave a vivid picture of Bloody Saturday and the events of that day.

The fact that we all live in or near Winnipeg, and that this was local history, definitely added a point of interest for each of us. And all noted that we were reading the novel on or around the dates of the actual strike anniversary [June 21, Bloody Saturday] which made for an interesting notation.

Middle school teachers will likely flock to this book to teach an important piece of World/Canadian/Manitoba/Winnipeg history.

Strike
A streetcar is overturned in 1919 in the Winnipeg General Strike in front of the old city hall building on Main Street.

__________________________

This is an unsolicited review. I purchased my copy from Amazon.ca.

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Red Deer Press (March 15 2019)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0889955745

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