August 9, 2011

Bride of New France - Suzanne Desrochers

This is the other book that I packed in my bag for my trip to Paris last month, and I was glad that I had it when I finished The Time In Between on the plane, then missed my connection in Toronto and had to wait 6 hours for another flight home to Thunder Bay. I had packed it since it was on my TBR list, and is set partly in France!

It was another thoroughly enjoying book, and I could tell that the author knew the time period and history well. This book evolved out of her master's thesis on Les Filles de Roi, and in turning it into fiction, it allowed her to imagine what the life of one of her real-life subjects might have been.

I remember learning about Les Filles de Roi in grade 7 (I think) history class many (many, many) years ago. My impression at the time was of adventurous girls who travelled from France to New France in order to be married to the settlers and so populate the new world. I also had the impression that they were feted and celebrated and pampered as their title, Daughters of the King, implied.

This book paints a starkly different picture. Laure, the main character, was stolen from her homeless parents, placed in an orphanage, and once she showed some intelligence and skills at needlework, she was placed in a special ward destined to be seamstresses to the nobility. Due to a conflict with the matron, she is banished to the new world; a journey that involves a wretched ship ride lasting several months that leaves her weakened on arrival due to illness and malnutrition. On arrival, she is expected to choose between a handful of illiterate and uncouth settlers, who are basically being bribed with a wife in order to stick it out in the wilderness of what is now Qu├ębec. This picture is likely the more accurate one.

Laure was a very enjoyable main character. Non-conformist for the time and circumstance that she was living in, with a free and independent spirit. For a while (spoiler alert), I was worried that she was not going to survive the book, but she did. I would love to see a sequel to this book so that I can find out how she ends up adapting to life in the new world, and hopefully thriving as well as just surviving.

Interestingly, I am reading another book now (Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland) that is set in France in the same period. I look forward to comparing their perspectives - watch for my review of that one later.


Wanda said...

National Bestseller — I've only recently heard of this one. I'd likely skip over it based on the cover but 'Bride of New France' actually sounds like one I'd enjoy after reading your review, gotta love book blogs!

Kate said...

Wanda - don't let the cover (or title) put you off. It is interesting historical fiction about a time and place that I have never seen fictionalized before. As I said, I would love to see a sequel!