THE DIONNE YEARS: A Thirties Melodrama by Pierre Berton

THE DIONNE YEARS: A Thirties Melodrama

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Deep in the scrub of Northern Ontario, approached by an unpaved two-lane road--few in those parts had cars in the Thirties--lay the enclave of souvenir stands, homestead, and hospital/stadium known the world over as Quintland. Prefaced by an artist's reconstruction of the site, it's an extraordinary story that Pierre Berton tells full-length and undoctored (one might say) for the first time. On one side were the Dionnes, rough-edged, religious French-Canadians: he mocked as a super-stud, she deemed unfit to care for her miraculously identical baby girls--by the very persons who drove thousands of miles to watch them play. On the other side was ""quintessential country doctor"" Allan Roy Dafoe, a well-born misfit become a backwoods martinet. (Later, it would count against him that he'd never seen fit to learn French.) Looking out for the public interest (!) was the government of Ontario, which kept the quints under the doctor's germfree, arid control for nine years--until a wartime drop in public interest and the clamor for their reunion with their family largely destroyed their value as a tourist attraction. But the bitterest irony is that, once back under one roof with their parents and siblings, the quints were miserable. They had been raised as royal children and were not prepared to be disciplined or to do chores. As psychologist Alfred Adler had warned, the disparity between their lives and their family's, along with their craving for attention, mitigated against ""normal human development."" So, though Papa Dionne won the battle for their custody (and saw the despised Dafoe dismissed in semi-disgrace), he lost the war for their allegiance and affection: the three remaining sisters live in obscure, more-or-less impoverished estrangement today. A dismal but inescapably absorbing affair, with the political, social, and psychological implications firmly nailed down.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1978
ISBN: 0393332268
Publisher: Norton