The Underling

The Underling is Ian McKercher’s first book and I have a soft spot for local first-time authors so I decided to give it a read. (I just learned it took him 30 years to write it!) And I was so pleasantly surprised, it’s a great book! This novel is about the formation of The Bank of Canada in 1934. It’s fiction. Why I would be fascinated by a subject like this I can’t figure out. But fascinated I was. It captured my attention from the get-go. At the core of the book is 17 year old Frances McFadden who is plucked from grade 11 at the High School of Commerce in Ottawa to work for the as-yet-unnamed, but hopefully soon-to-be Bank of Canada. She is recruited by Dr. Wilbur Grace from the Department of Finance to organize the entire operation from a card table and chair, in a rented office that looks like hell from the previous tenant, on the 4th floor of the Blackburn building at 51 Queen St. B T W, as an aside, did you know that before the formation of the Bank of Canada, every bank issued their own currency?  Bizarre eh! OK, back to the book…With pluck, courage, and no experience at all she helps build the foundation of the Bank of Canada before the government even gives it royal approval. In 1939, with the threat of war looming, Frances becomes involved in a desperate attempt by the bank to help Poland get their gold reserves out of the country. Just the description alone of flying on the Pan Am Dixie Clipper from New York to Marseilles is worth reading… it takes 48 hrs because they have to stop in Bermuda, and Azores and Lisbon to refuel! It’s a hefty read – there’s 361 well written pages, and I found it riveting. Well done Ian!

Leave a Comment