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Celtic Lightning strikes: 'engaging, readable, entertaining, overdue'

Reviews turn up in Toronto, Glasgow, Winnipeg, & Victoria . . .
The Globe and Mail: "Celtic Lightning is engagingly personal. We follow McGoogan and his wife as they travel enthusiastically throughout Scotland and Ireland, from Grace O’Malley’s Connemara and Jonathan Swift’s Dublin to the Dumfries of Robert Burns, and even to the St. Andrews castle where John Knox was captured and sent to France as a galley slave. . . . [McGoogan argues that we should] look carefully at the great figures in Irish and Scottish history, because, in his prologue’s fighting words, they 'shaped the values on which we have built
a Canadian nation.'  This poses two great challenges. The first, obviously, is to blend the two strands of history, Irish and Scottish. This, he achieves brilliantly. . . .The range is fascinating, from Robert the Bruce to The Chieftains, and he avoids a strict Irish-then-Scottish rotation. For example, “Democracy” features the lives, and the Canadian influence, of Sir John A. Macdonald, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, John Knox, Robert Burns, Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell. The reader will find it hard to argue with his specific proposal that McGee and Macdonald formed a vital link in creating Canada, and his general belief in the importance of Irish and Scots to the country. -- Douglas Gibson 

 The Scotsman"[McGoogan] describes Celtic Lightning as 'cultural genealogy,' an exploration of the values and ideas that Scottish and Irish immigrants took with them from their homelands. . . . The result is as engaging mixture of history, memoir, and travelogue as McGoogan explores his own Scots-Irish roots and visits historic sites across Ireland and Scotland . . . . There is no disputing his bottom line. The sheer number of Burns statues, Irish pubs and other trappings of Celtic culture in Canada offer compelling evidence that values and ideas can cross oceans -- and the centuries."  -- Dean Jobb

The Winnipeg Free Press: “Like a latter-day Pierre Berton, Ken McGoogan would like history to be fun. Celtic Lightning is his latest effort at carving a niche for himself in the field of 'pop' history, bringing a delectable dish of thoughts and anecdotes and just enough facts to make us feel a little wiser. . . . . McGoogan credits British author Richard Dawkins for the 'cultural genealogy' idea that pervades the thinking behind Celtic Lightning. But the engaging prose, which made books like Lady Franklin's Revenge so readable, is McGoogan's own, enlightening as it entertains." -- Dave Williamson

The Victoria Times Colonist: “
The way we think, as well as the things that we say and do, are influenced by the forces around us. The early European arrivals in Canada planted the seeds, certainly, and helped shape our government and our way of life . . . . McGoogan’s work takes a long overdue look at the forces that helped to shape this land.” -- Dave Obee

(Photos of Oscar Wilde and William Wallace statues by Sheena Fraser McGoogan)
Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.