Mitchell Sharp is best remembered as one of the most unpolitical of politicians - a public servant somehow co-opted into the political sphere without ever acquiring a partisan patina. In this engaging memoir, Sharp contemplates the unexpected turns of his public life, combining narrative with reflection on the nature of public service, and the nature of policy over the forty-five years of his career in government. Sharp gives a vivid picture of what it was like to grow up in depression-era Winnipeg, where he put himself through university while holding a full-time job and trained as an economist at a time when the breed was scarce. Sharp's career took him into the Ottawa mandarinate in the 1940s and 1950s, then the Toronto corporate world, and then Lester Pearson's cabinet in 1963. Sharp's experience as a politician, which lasted until 1978, was not uncontroversial: within the Liberal party he spoke for those who found Walter Gordon's nationalist economics impractical if not misleading. It was a clash of different styles, and different ideas, of Canadian nationalism - a clash in which Sharp's ideas prevailed. Later, Sharp was the man on the spot during the 1970 October crisis, and his description of those events adds significantly to our understanding of what happened, and why. As external affairs minister from 1968 to 1974, Sharp reshaped Canadian foreign policy to decrease dependence on the United States by promoting a diversified economy with increased trade overseas. Sharp's memoir will engross any reader with an interest in Canada's political history of the last half century. Clearly written, and with Sharp's characteristic dry candour, the book brings the characters and circumstances of Canada's history to life. Sharp's reflections on the role of the senior civil service, on relations with the media, on the rise of the Canadian deficit, and on other issues should find a place on any reading list concerned with the nature of Canadian government.
'This is a first-class political memoir and an eloquent reminder of the great contribution made by an earlier generation of Ottawa civil servants. One can readily understand why so seasoned a politician as Prime Minister Jean Chrétien continues to seek advice from the man whom her served as a parliamentary secretary 30 years ago.'Joseph Wearing, Canadian Journal of Political Science
'These memoirs contain useful and revealing insights by a man who was often at the heart of the action, and they provide an engaging read.'Eric Bergbusch, International Journal
'A healthy tonic for those who despair of Canada's future for they point to a tough inner core that has kept this country going through a succession of challenges.'David Crane, The Toronto Star
'His [writing] style is clear and straightforward, even when dealing with the complexities of budgets and trade agreements.'Christopher Young, The Ottawa Citizen
'His book is a delight to read, for its spare and elegant style, and for the sharp characterizations.'Clyde Sanger, Canadian Forum
'What is most interesting and useful about this book, however, is Sharp's reflections on his life and times -- short essays on public service and its meaning embedded in the book. A good solid book, worth the read.'Behind the Headlines