Just a Larger Family
Letters of Marie Williamson from the Canadian Home Front,1940–1944
Letters from Canada to the mother of child war guests from Britain are "an extraordinary slice of wartime Canadian life. " — J. L. Granatstein
The Second World War had been under way for a year when Marie and John Williamson welcomed two English brothers to join them and their two children in their small house in north Toronto for the duration of the conflict. Marie wrote over 150 letters to the boys’ mother, Margaret Sharp, imagining that she could make Margaret feel she was still with her children. She shepherded the boys through education decisions and illnesses, eased them into a strange new life, and rejoiced when they embraced unfamiliar winter sports. The letters brim with detail about family holidays, the financial implications of an extended family, their involvement in their church, and the games and activities that kept them occupied. Marie’s letters reflect the lives and concerns of a particular family in Toronto, but they also reveal a portrait of what was then Canada’s second-largest city during wartime.
The introduction is by Mary F. Williamson, Marie’s daughter, and Tom Sharp, Margaret’s youngest son. The book features a foreword by Jonathan Vance that puts the letters in historical context.
- Winner, Heritage Toronto Award of Excellence in the Book category 2012
``. ..an extraordinary slice of wartime Canadian life. These splendidly edited letters are full of wonderful detail on attitudes, blackouts, food rationing, gas and coal shortages, and the higher prices of everything, all the manifold details of daily life that normally are forgotten in most accounts. By taking in two British children and regularly keeping their mother overseas up-to-date on their progress, Marie Williamson and her family created a record of genuine historical importance. ''- J.L. Granatstein, co-author, The Oxford Companion to Canadian Military History
``We know a great deal about the consequences of World War II in Europe, but in this wonderful book we discover an untold part of the story. Here's what life was like in Canada for three British children who came to escape the bombing and for the Toronto family that took them in. In letters written by the mother of the host family, this book brilliantly captures the wartime years of food shortages, air raid precautions, gas rationing, and the raising of the young British evacuees in her care. ''- Anne Innis Dagg, Independent Studies Program, University of Waterloo, author of [http://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Catalog/dagg-giraffe.shtml Pursuing Giraffe: A 1950s Adventure (WLU Press, 2006)]