Thursday, December 18, 2008

MILA - Book Review

by Sally Armstrong
MacMillan Canada

WHO in this country has NOT heard of Mila Pivnicki?
Oh you havent?
Well maybe you know her by a different name?
Mila Mulroney.
Yes THAT Mulroney.

I have been in Canada for 8 years now and while I have heard and read a number of items and articles about Brian Mulroney, I barely know anything about his wife Mila. So I have just finished a very interesting biography of Mila Pivnicki Mulroney. It was absolutely fascinating. I could not put the book down and I read it in just 16 hours. (started at 9 am yesterday and finished at 1 am this morning). Hey, I would have read it faster if I did not have a class and an exam to study for. The exam is today.

Mila is just like me - an immigrant. Only she is not a new immigrant. She came to Canada years before I was even born. Milica Pivnicki was born in Yugislavia in 1953 to Dimitri and Bobanka Pivnicki. Milica (always called Mila - pronounced Meela) has two younger siblings. Jovan or John born in Yugoslavia in 1957. Mila was 5 and John was 1 year old, when the family immigrated to Canada in 1958. The youngest sibling Ivana, was born in Montreal in 1961.

This is the story of Mila's life in both Yugoslavia and Montreal. When she met Brian Mulroney she was just 18 and he was 33. They were married in 1973 when Mila was still 19. The first child Caroline was born in 1974 and Ben (Benedict) was born in 1976. There are two younger children as well - Mark (born 1979) and Nicholas (born 1985). The children were educated at a French school in Ottawa (during their fathers 9 years as PM) and they are all tri-lingual, speaking fluent English, French and Serbo-Croat (either Serbian or Croatian today).

The book describes Mila and Brians relationship and how he needed her as his anchor, in order to be an effective Prime Minister. It describes the family's life at the PM's resident - 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa. And their country "cottage" at Harrington lake.

There were lots of arguments and rumours in the media about Mila's so called excessive spending. And whether or not she was using public money to do it with. She spent money on her interior decorating, on her clothes and on her kids. What most people do not understand was that the job Brian had held before being elected to parliament gave him financial security - and earned him a considerable amount of money after he resigned. So the family was well off in their own rights - even without the PM's salary.

Mila never tried to influence Brian with any policy arguments. At least that's what the book said. BUT surely some of what she said or learnt had to have been mentioned over the kitchen table regarding policies in the public eye.

Brian Mulroney was Canada's 18th prime minister and dominated the political agenda of this country for nine years, from 1984 to 1993. They were tumultuous times, with the prime minister constantly in our faces over Free Trade, the GST, and the extended and exhaustive negotiations on the Meech Lake Accord. By the end of Mulroney's time in office, Canadians had become weary of his style and were primed for his departure.

Brian was the PM immediately before Kim Campbell (see Time and Chance review). Brian resigned a few months before an election was due, leaving Kim to be the PM for just 4 months. Due to Brians policies and legislation during his 9 years as PM, when the 1994 election was finally called, the public decimated the Conservative party and voted the Liberals into office with a HUGE majority. This allowed Jean Chretien to become PM. A job he also held for 9 years.

Jean Chretien was the PM when I came to Canada.

Sally Armstrong also wrote about her ancestor Charlotte Taylor. I have read and reviewed that book as well. So that makes two books by the same author that I could not put down. Sally is an excellent writer. I think it is time to find and read her book - Threats of Aghanistan.

Here is an article about Sally Armstrong from McGill university dated 2002
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3

And another article about Sally. which mentions the following: She is the author of three books - Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan, The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor: the First Woman Settler of the Miramichi - and the newly released Bitter Roots, Tender Shoots: The Uncertain Fate of Afghanistan's Women. It is interesting to note that this list does NOT mention the MILA book. I wonder why??

And of course I read this book for the Second Canadian Book Challenge.

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