In the last seventy years, Toronto has been transformed from a provincial town to a significant urban heavyweight. Few cities have experienced such sustained growth, and the packed streets of North America’s fourth-largest city are a far cry from the origins of the city as “Little York,” which was comprised of the Lieutenant-Governor’s muddy tent—which he shared with his wife and many children—and some barracks. Between then and now, fervent Orangemen have imposed strict morals on the growing provincial town, and an influx of immigrants has changed the face of the city.
With the same eye for character, anecdote and circumstance that made Peter Ackroyd’s London and Colin Jones’s Paris so successful, Levine’s captivating prose integrates the sights, sounds and feel of Toronto with a broad historical perspective, linking the city’s present with its past through themes such as politics, transportation, public health, ethnic diversity and sports. Toronto invites readers to discover the city’s lively spirit over four centuries and to wander purposefully through the city’s many unique neighbourhoods, where they can encounter the striking and peculiar characters who have inhabited them: the powerful and powerless, the entrepreneurs and the entertainers, and the moral and the corrupt, all of whom have contributed to Toronto’s collective identity.
"Ambitious in scope and masterful in execution, Allan Levine's panoramic portrait of our city from its beginnings to the present is sweeping and opinionated, judicious and clever, insightful and gossipy all at once. This is no dry academic survey, but a lively, popular-style "biography"...Levine excels at integrating large amounts of complex information into a flowing and satisfying narrative...bristles with insight...His summation of the Ford years (ending before Ford's dramatic withdrawal from his re-election campaign for health reasons) is simply superb...Let's face it: for a writer like Levine, a mayor like Ford is a gift from heaven. And, for all of us who love Toronto, so is this book. Toronto: Biography of a City is a timely, vibrant history of our modern megacity as it comes of age."
"The subtitle of Allan Levine's ambitious history of Toronto may seem stolid as the city's British founding families, but it doesn't take long for the reader to realize how carefully chosen it is. Levine, who won high praise for his 2011 biography of Mackenzie King, treats the city as he would any biographical subject: as a constantly changing personality rooted to the historical moment by a set of defining passions, idiosyncrasies, blind spots, and complex relations with family members...This approach...serves Levine well. He announces his intentions in a very witty introduction...The book includes an excellent selection of archival images and photographs that highlights key themes and personalities...The text is also enlivened by dozens of highly quotable observations, appreciations, and put-downs from the last 200 years. The insults are especially good...Love it or hate it, Toronto is a slippery city to pin down Levine's excellent biography goes a long way to explaining why."
"His book...comes packed with such stories, moments from Toronto's odd history that prove the city was weird long before Rob Ford was elected."
"...a fond but not uncritical history of Canada's largest city...his handsome book...Toronto: Biography of A City reads well. It abounds with punchy portraits of the city's leading citizens: many scoundrels and a few tarnished saints. Levine is adept at linking historical events to today's news...Levine enlivens his tale with judicious helpings of sex, drugs and rock and roll...After reading it, many Canadians may agree with Levine's judgment: 'In short, Toronto is one self-absorbed fishbowl.' But it's our fishbowl."
"...Levine's shrewd and lively account of two centuries of Toronto history..."
"...an entertaining book. Levine has made an energetic career -- I hope a successful one, he deserves it -- of popularizing Canadian history with a big reach...he writes chatty history...bringing it alive again."
"I suspect most Americans know very little about Canada other than it forms our northern border and that its hockey team is one of the most valuable franchises in the NHL. You can repair that gap in your knowledge, for example, with Allan Levine’s Toronto: Biography of a City...For anyone who is interested in the development of a dynamic city this book will prove very entertaining."
“Bloody amazing, brings Toronto alive as never before. Hogtown is dead. A shining metropolis lives.”