In the grand literary tradition of Gore Vidal’s novels about American political history, Roy MacSkimming has conjured an extraordinary novelistic recreation of the last days of Canada’s indomitable first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.

Narrated by his private secretary, Joseph Pope, Macdonald opens with stirring scenes of Sir John fighting his last great election battle on issues that uncannily echo our national concerns today. The year is 1891, and there is a very real fear of absorption by the United States.

Meanwhile, a political scandal in Quebec threatens to topple Sir John’s government. Exhausted by his electoral victory, the old leader fights to keep his iron grip over his party and life itself. Joseph Pope renders his chief in intimate detail, reveling the immense charm and personal magnetism that gave Macdonald such mastery over people and events. As the novel moves majestically towards his final hours, Sir John himself addresses the reader directly, reflecting on his past and present.

The spellbinding narrative features a memorable cast of characters ranging from President Ulysses S. Grant, Louis Riel and Sir Wilfrid Laurier to Macdonald’s feisty second wife, Lady Agnes Macdonald, and their disabled daughter Mary.

Convincingly grounded in the political and personal passions of the day, Macdonald delivers a brilliant and exciting portrait of a young emerging nation and its greatest champion. At once seductively evocative and emotionally engaging, this is historical fiction at its best.


A singularly well-crafted novel…deserves top place among the books on Canadian history that matter.

Peter C. Newman, author of The Hudson Bay Trilogy

Roy MacSkimming does for Macdonald what the history books have failed to do. He not only brings him to life, he brings him into our hearts.

Nino Ricci, author of Testament

… handled with imagination, sympathy and verve, making a hugely enjoyable read…. Macdonald is no hagiography … but it vividly reminds us of his historical stature…. This is the way to learn history.

The Globe and Mail

A highly sympathetic image of Macdonald does emerge in these pages…. MacSkimming makes Sir John a man you would have loved to have known and hung out with….

Quill & Quire

Whoever said Canadian history was boring needs to be a given this book.

Roy MacGregor, author of Canadians

MacSkimming's novel skillfully interweaves the portrayal of its characters, their society and their politics... Macdonald is an excellent read, providing an artistically original yet historically authentic take on its title character and his peers. This rich and very accessible novel is sure to contribute to Macdonald's timelessness for anyone who reads it.

The Chronicle Herald

About the Author

Roy MacSkimming

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014
Roy MacSkimming photo

Roy MacSkimming

Roy MacSkimming has been a book publisher in Toronto and literary columnist and books editor for the Toronto Star. He has held positions with the Canada Council for the Arts and the Association of Canadian Publishers. A native of Ottawa, he lives in the country near Perth, Ontario.