This book on the Irving monopoly in New Brunswick is really interesting. I found it took a lot of judgments and perceptions I had on the family and threw them out the window but also reinforced a lot of the feelings I had while working for an Irving-owned paper.
The way the family built and sustained the province is remarkable, their shrewd business sense is inspiring and their loyalty to their home is admirable. The Irving monopoly is real and ever-present in the small east-coast province (it really can’t be missed) and New Brunswick wouldn’t be what it is without them. There were a lot of moments in the book my mouth fell open in shock or I shook my head disapprovingly at things the Irvings did to further consolidate their power, similar to when a big corporation moves in to a small town and forces local shops to close.
I was mostly interested in reading about the newspaper industry since I worked for one of the papers. There were things I was familiar with (Wafer-gate) but I really enjoyed the riveting detail that filled in parts of the story I didn’t know and also hearing the voices of people I knew or met. The book wrote about things that happened while I was still in the paper and reading about those changes and being able to connect with them isn’t an experience I think I’ve had with a book.
My flaws with the book are the way it’s written. I can’t say I like the writing style too much. Poitras is a journalist and he writes like one, which is great for newspaper stories, but can get irritating in a full-length book. The sentence and paragraph structures were confusing at times and didn’t always flow well. The way the book was organized also seemed jumbled and timelines kept going back and forth.
The author also seemed like an impartial observer but occasionally would bring in his own judgments (usually negative) randomly, which also seemed off. His last few paragraphs, however, were intelligent, thoughtful and concluded the book nicely.
The book is interesting, riveting, shocking and a lot better than I expected.