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Bride of New France Hardcover

3.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393073378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393073379
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.8 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #791,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Jan. 24 2011
Format: 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.
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Format: 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?
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Format: 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.
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Format: 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.
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