In This Review

Breakup: The Coming End of Canada and the Stakes for America
Breakup: The Coming End of Canada and the Stakes for America
By Lansing Lamont
W. W. Norton & Company, 1994, 260 pp.

In a fascinating portrait of Canada and its manifold divisions, Lamont, an American journalist and long-time observer of Canada, provides an excellent introduction to the "great divides" that separate Canadians from one another and give them an attenuated sense of common nationhood. The careful exposition in the first part of the book is followed by an imaginative flight of fancy in the second. In a future setting, Lamont poses as a historian recounting Quebec's secession on January 1, 2000. Crashing financial markets, an exodus of the Anglophone minority, and a spectacular act of ecoterrorism by Cree warriors in the north dominate the first phase of Quebec's unhappy independence, which is greeted coldly in the United States. The remainder of Canada splinters into regional fragments, each ever more subject to American domination yet providing fewer benefits for Washington than Canada avant le deluge.

Least plausible is the guess that 80 percent of Quebec's population would be so blind as to vote for independence in a referendum. A bare majority, however, may well do so, and Lamont's vision of the consequences is compelling. Canadians should read this elegy for their dying country as a somber warning; Americans, for its fine evocation of a distant neighbor, perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown, whose fracturing would pose novel and difficult problems for U.S. foreign policy.