John Hair and Alice Runnalls

Donald S. Hair

As the author notes in his introduction, this fascinating and insightful book is "family history with a context." Placing the lives of his parents, John Hair and Alice Runnalls, at the centre of the narrative, Dr. Hair explores the history and culture of Southwestern Ontario, that great peninsula of fertile farmland lying between Lake Erie and Lake Huron.

Dubbed "Souwesto" in the 1960s by artist Greg Curnoe and playwright James Reaney, the region was home to the kind of people that Alice Munro writes about in her short stories--people mostly of Scots-Irish descent; Protestant; practical, hard-working people attached to the land, defining their community as their school section and their social milieu as their rural Methodist or Presbyterian church.

Souwesto Lives tells their story, beginning in the first days of European settlement, continuing through the clearing of "the bush" and into the twentieth century, when the coming of the telephone and rural electrification marked the beginning of social and technological changes that would change the area forever. It is a story of the movement from country to city, from family farm to suburban lot, told with verve and affection.

Natives of Souwesto, historians and genealogists, and the general reader all will find much to treasure in this detailed portrait of a region, its people, and a family.

Donald S, Hair is professor emeritus in the Department of English and Writing Studies at Western University in London, Ontario. A specialist in Victorian literature, he is the author of a number of other books, including Fresh Strange Music: Elizabeth Barrett Bro Browning's Language. He was the recipient of the Edward G. Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2001-02.

Casebound, 344 pages, 6 X 9, $59.95 Canada / $49.95 USA


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