3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bride of New France reads easily without succumbing to the category of an easy read
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;...
Published 20 months ago by Deborah Serravalle
41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing and misleading read
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...
Published on Mar 27 2011 by Reader
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bride of New France reads easily without succumbing to the category of an easy read,
This review is from: Bride of New France (Paperback)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?'
If Laure, due to her challenging situation responds in a cold or calculated manner, I suggest this is exacerbated by Desrochers use of the third person, present tense point-of-view. There is a trend in literary fiction to use this POV. It can be a refreshing change and I enjoy books written from this perspective. However, it can create disconnect; we're asked to believe that the story is happening in real-time when clearly it is not. Consequently, I feel this choice of POV contributed to my lack of empathy for the challenging character of Laure.
After the trials of an ocean crossing, Laure has little choice but to marry pink-faced Mathurin, whose teeth are as rotten as his words. And the small settlement he takes her to offers little comfort. The only solace she finds is through her forbidden friendship with the Savage, Deskaheh.
Desrochers presentation of the relationship between Laure and Deskaheh, although passionate, remains realistic. And this, I suggest, is the book's great strength: it doesn't succumb to cliché colonial pairings, nor is it predictable it in its outcome or conclusion. Furthermore, I feel Desroschers offers a respectful representation of the indigenous cultures that Laure encounters. Joseph Boyden, author of Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce, agrees, calling Bride of New France 'A gorgeous historical debut.' Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning Boyden is of Scottish, Irish and Métis descent and his novels offer an illuminating view of First Nations heritage and culture.
Finally, I wonder if Suzanne Desrochers plans a sequel to Bride of New France. There certainly appears to be opportunity. And she must have done something right, for I find myself thinking of these characters and speculating about what happens in the future; how their lives, and those of their descendents, unfold. I hope Ms Desrochers is mulling this over as well.
My final word: If you're looking for a thoughtful read; one that opens a window into a world we know little of'the founding mothers of New France and to some extent, their relationship with the First Nations people they encountered'you'll enjoy this novel. Although the writing cannot be faulted, it does keep you at arms' length. Bride of New France is not a 'feel good, I need to escape and be this character' kinda read. With that said, save it for when you feel like settling down with a book that puts flesh on the dry bones of history. In which case, you won't be disappointed.
41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing and misleading read,
This review is from: Bride of New France (Paperback)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. As for her shoddy description of Trois-Rivières, it is inexcusable;
- when the character Laure (an improbable name to begin with) arrives in Montreal, the author, in an awkward description, has her climb a hill to the top where a cross has been placed. Presumably, she is referring to the top of the Mount Royal where Cartier planted a cross in 1634. Had she bothered to check her facts, she might have found it improbable that Laura and the entire welcoming party would walk through 5 kilometres of bush to climb atop of a mountain just to say welcome to Montreal. And do so in less than one hour;
- later, the author shows this same Laure tending a vegetable garden and picking... tomatoes. In 1669, not only would Laure not have known what tomatoes were, she certainly would not have considered them fit to eat;
- after having Laure board the Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Havre-de-Grace, the author has the ship stop to pick up some faux-sauniers jailed on Ile-de-Ré. Not only is the Ile de Ré completely out of the way (closer to La Rochelle), but the deportation of faux-sauniers to Canada only began in the next century. Again, it is surprising that Desrochers would not have known this. Her insistence to depict these men as vermin ridden is also puzzling and unsupported by the available documentary evidence.
And the list goes on...
Some readers will no doubt be mislead by much of what this novel depicts as historical and factual. This book does not deliver the promised fresh new look at the live of the Filles du Roi in New France, nor to it meet the standards one would expect from an academic writer who specialises in the field. Instead, it feeds on the myths and misconceptions which have plagued Canadian history for so long. In the end, it is purely a work of fantasy with no historical relevance.
For these reasons this book, sadly, gets two thumbs down from this reader.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Praise to a wonderful example of Canadian Historical Fiction!,
This review is from: Bride of New France (Paperback)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 taught.
I hope very much that this will have a follow up novel or two as the main character is still very young and when I finished the novel, I felt the story should continue onward. I would love to see how life changes for Laure after the final chapter and even into her old age. I recommend this novel to historical fiction fans and especially Canadian readers.-Worthy Pearl
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful Canadian historical fiction,
This review is from: Bride of New France (Paperback)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.
The first half of the book, in France, involves more detail and serves almost as set up for the Canadian part of the novel. Desrochers surprised me here - Laure's character does not follow the path I expected. Her choices lead to some interesting plot lines and an ending I didn't expect. My only criticism - I wanted more of the Canadian life. The focus is on Laure, but I was interested in some of the secondary characters as well. Madame Rouillard, the bar owner/midwife has stories of her own to tell. And I'm curious as to what was in store for Laure after the book ended.
A fascinating historical read about a period and place not as well documented as the English settlements. I look forward to more fiction from Suzanne Desrochers.
1.0 out of 5 stars Bride of New France,
This review is from: Bride of New France (Paperback)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.
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring,
This review is from: Bride of New France (Paperback)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 Laure did there. At no point does the author delve deeper into who the character really is. It is written in an odd passive voice that makes reading it really cumbersome and tedious. This book could have been so much more. Don't waste your time on this fail of a story.
2.0 out of 5 stars Cheap fiction,
This review is from: Bride of New France (Paperback)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.
1.0 out of 5 stars unsatisfied,
This review is from: Bride of New France (Paperback)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. I very rarely regret purchasing books, but this is one of the limited few that I wish I had not of wasted my time or money on.
4.0 out of 5 stars Enticing read,
This review is from: Bride of New France (Paperback)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 finished.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A page turner,
This review is from: Bride of New France (Paperback)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. I recommend this story.
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Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers (Paperback - Jan 18 2011)
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