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Seven narrative histories and a contemporary memoir, which explore a family’s evolution over 200 years
Author and scientist John Hardy explores the lives of his ancestors, and juxtaposes their experiences with his own. From rural England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, to Canada and the United States in the twentieth and twenty-first, we follow the lives of the fourteen people who were his great-grandparents, grandparents and parents, and then immerse ourselves into a memoir of his own life. The ancestral narratives are firmly grounded in the historical record but are fleshed out with family reminiscences that breathe life into the leading characters and invite comparisons with the more modern life of Hardy himself.
Although his ancestors were ordinary folk, all but one born into financial hardship, they made the best of their circumstances and strove throughout their lives to improve their lot, albeit with varying degrees of success. They were also very much people of their times, so their stories offer a window on life in England in the nineteenth century, and Canada in the first half of the twentieth.
Hardy’s contemporary memoir describes the life of a successful career scientist, but the story includes enough wrinkles and adventures to satisfy any non-scientist. There is insight into what motivates a research scientist, and some graphic stories of the down-to-earth struggles that a scientist can face no matter how elevated his intentions may be.
Though the circumstances surrounding his ancestors’ lives are very different from those affecting Hardy’s own life, the reader will enjoy discovering some of the genetic threads that link a family’s past with its present.