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Bride of New France [Paperback]

Suzanne Desrochers
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 18 2011

In 1669, Laure Beausejour, an orphan imprisoned with prostitutes, the insane and other forgotten women in Paris’ infamous Salpetriere, is sent across the Atlantic to New France as a Fille du roi. Laure once dreamed with her best friend Madeleine of using her needlework stills to become a seamstress on the Rue Saint-Honoré and to one day marry a gentleman. The King, however, needs French women in his new colony and he finds a fresh supply in the city’s largest orphanage. Laure and Madeleine know little of the place called New France, except for stories of ferocious winters and men who eat the hearts of French priests. To be banished to Canada is a punishment worse than death.

Bride of New France explores the challenges of coming into womanhood in a brutal time and place. From the moment she arrives in Ville-Marie (Montreal), Laure is expected to marry and produce children with a French soldier who can himself barely survive the harsh conditions of his forest cabin. But Laure finds, through her clandestine relationship with Deskaheh, an allied Iroquois, a sense of the possibilities in this New World.

What happens to a woman who attempts to make her own life choices in such authoritative times?


Bride of New France is a beautiful debut novel that explores a fascinating chapter in Canadian history.

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"a wholly original example of social history at its best" - John Barber, The Globe and Mail

“a fully imagined but deeply grounded novel” - John Barber, The Globe and Mail

“Bride of New France will not silence critics of the new social history, nor is it meant to. But if they do want to bring the past alive for a new generation, as they typically claim, they could never find a text more likely to engage the minds and imaginations of young people, especially girls, who have grown immune to the conventional narratives.” - John Barber, The Globe and Mail

“A moody, beautiful piece of historical fiction.” - Dana Medoro, Winnipeg Free Press

"A haunting story of a courageous young woman." - Kathleen Grissom, author of the bestselling The Kitchen House

About the Author


Suzanne Desrochers grew up in the French-Canadian village of Lafontaine on the shores of Georgian Bay in Ontario. She currently lives in London, UK, with her husband and son. She is completing a PhD thesis at King’s College comparing the migration of women from Paris and London to colonial North America. She also wrote her MA thesis on the Filles du roi, combining Creative Writing and History, at York University in Toronto. Bride of New France is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Suzanne Desrochers' debut novel, Bride of New France, began as an M.A. thesis project. Fascinated since childhood by the legendary filles du roi, the young Frenchwomen sent to Canada to produce a population for the new colony, the author set out to learn more. With a distinct lack of data, this was no easy task.

Transforming dry facts into a fictional story; creating characters that walk off the page from numbers and records is the aspect of the novel that intrigues me most about the form. And I suggest Desrochers does a fine job of creating an imaginary world and setting her characters in it. Furthermore, her writing is solid. She spins a good yarn; her use of language is fresh and beautiful without being overdone. To the author's credit, the novel reads easily without succumbing to the category of an easy read.

A brief but dramatic prologue introduces our protagonist, Laure Beauséjour, in crisis, and succinctly sets the social landscape of seventeenth-century Paris. The story then picks up a few years later. Laure is now at the Salpêtrière, a pivotal institution in the mass incarceration of the poor of Paris. Here we see Laure interact with peers and witness her reaction to the consequences of their dire circumstances.

There's a magical moment during the reading of a book when you bond with the protagonist. In Laure's case, I confess I struggled. We needn't, however, like a character for the writing to work. Desrochers seems to be aware of this when she comments in her historical notes, 'On some levels she is a selfish character, but how else in such circumstances, if not through wit and strength and even malice, could these women have survived and given birth to French North America?
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43 of 53 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing and misleading read March 27 2011
By Reader
This book has been widely publicised as a historical novel shining a new light on the life of the Filles du Roy in New France. The marketing pitch made much of Desrochers's academic credentials. This author does hold, after all, a Master's degree from a reputable university where she has defended a thesis relating to the Filles du Roy. She ought to know a thing or two about them. And so I was truly looking forward to what I fully expected would be an informative read.

How very disappointing, then, to find the research lacking in every basic respect.

Page after page, anachronisms abound, outright factual mistakes crop up, descriptions fail to match the geography or are taken out of their historical context. All of this does much to snuff any enjoyment an informed reader might otherwise derive from the narrative. The author seems to have built her improbable plot by relying on a random sampling of historical anecdotes and clichés which lend the work an odd cut and paste, stop and go, texture.

None of this would matter so much - it is after all a work of fiction - had the academic credentials of the authors not been used to bolster sales.

But they were. And so, one can't help but wonder why such gross factual errors were allowed to remain in the final draft.

Here are some examples:

- when Laure is being paddled up river from Trois-Rivières to Montreal in a canoe, the author insists on hauling those canoes up on shore several times to portage over rapids. There are simply no rapids in the Saint-Lawrence river between Trois-Rivières and Montreal. None that would require a portage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bride of New France Feb. 1 2013
I am a 10th generation Canadian and descend from one of the Brides of New France (Anne Perault)
This is most certainly a "novel" with imagined protagonist and misinformation.
Such a dissapointment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cheap fiction Feb. 22 2012
By no_name
I wanted to read about foundations of Canada and the dark, undocumented 17th century. I was lured by the publicity around this book, including subway posters. It was very, very deceiving.
I did not "bond" with the caracter (Laura). I found the writing lacking substance and the character depiction fake. There was a sense of cheap fiction throughout. Historical facts were distorted: how one can believe that a poor, destitute girl from Salpetriere could write a letter to the king, complaining about lurid conditions? Tomatoes in a garden in Ville-Marie in 1669?
I regret I bought it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful Canadian historical fiction Jan. 24 2011
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Bride of New France is a debut novel by Canadian Suzanne Desrochers. It arrived with a 'must read' recommendation that it definitely lived up to.

Bride of New France tells the story of the filles du roi - the King's Daughters. In 1659 France is acting on the King's decree to "clean the streets". Clean the streets of the poor, the destitute, the beggars - "...troublesome sights for the young King and his regents". Seven year old Laure Beausejour is taken from her family and placed in the Salpêtriére Hospital - a building that housed prostitutes, criminals, the insane and the poor. It is here that Laure works in a dimly lit sewing room producing lace. She dreams of one day leaving, opening her own business and getting married.

She does get to leave, but not in the manner she had planned. The King is eager to populate New France - the French colony in Canada. In 1669 Laure and her friend Madeleine are chosen to be sent to Canada as brides for the male colonists and to produce children. Rumours of life in New France tell of a terrible climate and danger from all sides. They turn out to not be rumours.

I enjoy reading historical fiction, but this was even more of a treat as it was Canadian. Names and events brought to mind history lessons learned long ago. But Desrochers does more than bring it to mind - she brings it to life. The settings are full of fact based details that paint a vivid picture of both France and Canada. Desrochers' academic background in history serves her well. But it is the character of Laure I became so engrossed in. Her life in Salpêtriére is harsh, yet she dreams of something better and a future. When confronted with the brutal life that is New France, she still does not give in, despite being driven to the edge.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellen t
Published 1 month ago by S. Benedetti
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fabulous Read
This is a fabulous book written in a way that engages the reader and transports one back to a time that has shaped us as Canadians. Read more
Published 7 months ago by ArtTherapist
The premise of this book as suggested in the title sounded interesting but having an idea and putting in book form isn't as easy as some authors may think. Read more
Published 12 months ago by M. Harding
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring
A friend lent me this book to read and its been a slog. Its boring to say the least. Its poorly written and amounts to not much more than a list of what Laure did here and what... Read more
Published on July 28 2012 by panaluu
1.0 out of 5 stars unsatisfied
I was excited to read this book but was extremely disappointed and found it difficult to finish. I found it was pretty poorly written and very anti-climatic. Read more
Published on July 28 2011 by booklover
5.0 out of 5 stars Praise to a wonderful example of Canadian Historical Fiction!
I enjoyed this book so much. To enter the world of the King's Daughters was eye opening. I agree that it should be in Canadian high schools when the history of New France is... Read more
Published on May 15 2011 by Worthy Pearl
5.0 out of 5 stars A page turner
I just finished this book and I really enjoyed it. I had a hard time putting it down and would like to see a follow up book with the characters of Laure and Deskahah. Read more
Published on April 16 2011 by Carlita
4.0 out of 5 stars Enticing read
Great story. Author delivers a historical portrayal of a fictional character. Very engaging and lost some sleep finishing it, and was dissapointed when Laure's story was... Read more
Published on March 29 2011 by Penny
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story! Perfectly detailed!
I only read this novel since I attended high school with the Author, but it was even better than I could have anticipated. Read more
Published on March 14 2011 by Cyrbia
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