The Surprise of My Life
Paper 304 pp.
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“It’s an autobiography! If I tell you what’s in it you won’t read the book.” — Claire Drainie Taylor
Or would you? Maybe you’d be intrigued by the progression of a life begun as an unexceptional little girl born to a middle-class Jewish Canadian couple in a small prairie town who, at age sixteen, married a refined Englishman, and survived the Great Depression, partly alone in a shack in the woods of Vancouver Island. Or how, only a few months after returning to Vancouver, with no training and minimal education, this same young woman walked on stage at one of Canada’s finest old theatres, and went on to a successful thirty-year career as an actress and radio dialogue writer.
Having been compelled by her family to write her memoir, it wasn’t until she’d finished and reread her manuscript that Claire Drainie Taylor realized what an extraordinary life she’d led. Her descriptions of the many fascinating incidents that make up her story, and how she dealt with them, revealed herself to herself in a way that illuminates what she calls “The Surprise of My Life.”
Claire Drainie Taylor, who died at the age of 92, worked as a free-lance radio and television actress from 1939 through 1970. She collaborated with her second husband, John Drainie, on radio dramas, supplying his narrative with dialogue. She is a Life Member of the Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists.
“Written with clarity and humour, this charming memoir includes many small family photographs.”
— Pauline Carey, Canadian Book Review Annual
“Claire Drainie Taylor’s The Surprise of My Life is an enchanting, honest, often humorous, sometimes brutal, but always entertaining account of a remarkable woman’s life history....Peppered with amusing and engaging accounts of the golden years of CBC radio, the early years of Canadian television, and life in postwar Toronto, The Surprise of My Life augments Canadian social history with this unique story of one woman’s experiences in both the private and public spheres of our culture....With its detailed recollections of her family and friends, the book is a remarkable portrait of the author’s colourful past and a testament to her tenacity and love of life.”
— Corinne Rusch-Drutz, University of Toronto Quarterly
“We enjoyed every page. You’ve done a wonderful book.... It deserves a wide audience.”
— Merna Mitchell, the late vice-president of W.O. Mitchell Ltd.
“An engaging and evocative walk down memory lane by one of our most loved and admired actresses. Claire Drainie....The author’s description of the lives they led among the popular actors of the day is lively, humorous and filled with nostalgia. While at times the author slips into sentimentality, for the most part this is a wise and effective retelling of times past and of struggles and failings, the triumphs and the happy times.”
— Gerald Pratley, KINEMA
“I found Claire’s book an absolute delight! It succeeds not only as family and social history, but as a compelling story and a memorable portrait of the writer.... Her frankness is...admirable.”
— Heather Robertson, author, biographer. Her most recent work is Writing from Life.
“Drainie Taylor’s is no sepulchral volume but sprightly, humorous, and full of the quotidian details of life in a large family....This book is a generous gift not only to the author’s own descendants but to the many fans and friends who remember John Drainie and are interested in the Drainie family.”
— Joan Givner, Quill & Quire