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A Man and His Words
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A Life Consumed

by Diane Sims


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A Life Consumed
Lilly Samson's Dispatches from the TB Front

In 1923 Lilly Samson, a teacher in a one-room school in Goulais River north of Sault Ste. Marie, contracted TB. She was 20 years old and engaged to be married. A year later she entered a sanatorium in Gravenhurst, Ontario. She died there in 1927. Before she did, though, she wrote a series of letters that her niece Diane Sims has made the centrepiece of a remarkably moving and thought provoking look at TB in Canada in the 20s…

Sims arrays a variety of constellations around Lilly’s letters. There is the national, where the 22 sanatoria across the country embraced all classes of Canadians, including Mackenzie King’s brother MacDougall who compared fighting TB to surviving on the front lines. There is the medical/political, where provision of TB care for all its citizens was Saskatchewan’s precursor to medicare. There is the social, where Lilly gets to know Dr. Norman Bethune, himself a patient at the Gravenhurst sanatorium, their isolated community within a community. There is the personal, where Lilly, by turns hopeful and deeply angry at this theft of her life, enters into a relationship with another patient.

The genre of A Life Consumed is a compound, comprising elements of letter collection, memoir and biography. It is perhaps best categorized as creative non-fiction. While Lilly’s letters are clearly historical, the life narrative that links them emerged from both Diane Sims's memory and imagination, as guided by the letters themselves.


Diane Sims, now living in Stratford, grew up in Sault Ste. Marie. She has worked as a journalist/editor for newspaper and magazine media, as a writer/broadcaster for CBC radio, and as corporate editor for a Crown corporation. She has been living with MS and ovarian cancer for far longer than anyone expected possible, and her previous writing has reflected this.


Publisher: Your Scrivener Press, 2008
Category: Biography, autobiography, and reminiscences / Communities and locales
ISBN: 978-1-896350-30-1 9781896350301
Price: $19 CDN/USA paperback
Format: 207 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 in
Features: 17 B&W photographs
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