- Fans of the Midwife of Venice (this is a MUCH better book)
- Canadian History fans (are there any out there?)
Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers is about the “filles du roi” or King’s daughters. In the late 1600 the King of France paid for young women to move to New France to help populate the settlements. These women were usually orphans from the poor houses of Paris. The women married the ex-soldiers or officers already settled in New France. Prior to the King’s efforts these men seemed more interested in reproducing half-native half-french children.
Most of the women who came as a Filles du Roi had no experience in farming or sustenance living. It was a lonely life, one that would need a great deal of resolve and bravery to survive. Desrochers imagines this world through the eyes of the young woman Laure. Her spunk get’s her sent from Paris overseas on a six-week journey to the great wilderness of Canada.
Laure shows us the new world in its beauty and strangeness. She marries a man who seems decent enough, but she is left for most months of the year along while he traps animals and gallivants around with the native women.
Laure meets a young Iroquoian man. He is rough and crass, but eventually they fall in love and have a clandestine affair. She becomes pregnant as a result. I will not spoil anymore details, but she learns to comes to term with the life she must live in the new world. Laure is also able to see the opportunities available to her as a woman living in New France.
I picked up this book for a few reasons. I’ve always been a bit of a history buff and this book, set in the late 1600s, was a historical fiction fix. It’s sometimes difficult to find Canadian historical fiction maybe because of an inferiority complex about our proud past.
I also have a soft spot for début books (which this is), as I enjoy new voices in Canadian Literature. This fiction started out as a Master Thesis for Desrochers at York University. It is well researched and fully conceivable as Desrochers brings this time in history to life.
But I cannot wholly recommend this one. I enjoyed the story enough. The plot held my attention because of its setting, but Desrochers’s introspection came through too strongly in the character Laure. It really felt forced and I kept telling Desrochers (telepathically) the old writers motto “show don’t say.”
Laure is flat, unbelievable and too neutral or reserved to cling to. However, if you enjoyed the Midwife of Venice, you may enjoy this one and it’s much more historically sound.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, check out these or leave a comment:
- The Birthhouse by Ami McKay
- Sheilagh’s Brush by Maura Hanrahan
- The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud