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The Orenda

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  6,563 ratings  ·  1,175 reviews
In the remote winter landscape a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of a young Iroquois girl violently re-ignites a deep rift between two tribes. The girl’s captor, Bird, is one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. Years have passed since the murder of his family, and yet they are never far from his mind. In the girl, Snow Falls, he recognizes the ghost of h ...more
Hardcover, 501 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Hamish Hamilton
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Brenda This is an incredibly well researched book, amazing characters some of which you will love and others that you will want to slap hard! I would…moreThis is an incredibly well researched book, amazing characters some of which you will love and others that you will want to slap hard! I would recommend it (less)
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Best Canadian Literature
66th out of 736 books — 616 voters
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Giller Prize 2013 Longlist
1st out of 13 books — 23 voters

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To say that The Orenda is a compelling read would be an understatement. Reading Boyden’s latest novel was for me an intense experience which I think will haunt me for a long while. It is not an easy, comfortable read; it is, in fact, provocative, demanding that we examine our history with an unflinching eye: “What’s happened in the past can’t stay in the past for the same reason the future is always just a breath away” (487).

This historical epic is set in the mid-1600s in Huronia at a time when
I took no pleasure yesterday in killing the last two women. They were already so wounded we knew they wouldn’t survive the trip home. Even though I asked Fox to do it, my asking is the same as if I myself had done it. Fox cut their throats with his knife so that they’d die quickly, ignoring the taunts of Sturgeon and Hawk and Deer to make it slow. When the three called Fox a woman for making the first leave so fast, he positioned the second woman, who was quite pretty, so the blood from her thr
Brother Gabriel decries the ritualistic persecution the New World "sauvages" exact upon their enemies, declaring it evidence that the Indians these Jesuits have come to convert are little more than wild animals. His fellow missionary, Brother Christophe, pointedly reminds him of the Inquisition, that black period of the late Middle Ages, when the Catholic church subjected so many to exquisitely designed and amorally rendered torture. Author Joseph Boyden doesn't seek to justify any nation's brut ...more
"Success is measured in different ways. The success of the harvest. For some, the success of harvesting souls."

This sweepingly ambitious novel by Joseph Boyden – a 500 page epic – focuses strongly on all these successes as well as failures in the early beginnings of Canada, when the Huron, the Iroquois as the Jesuit missionaries clashed together. It’s narrated by three characters: the well-respected Huron warrior Bird, the Iroquois girl Snow Falls, whom he claims as his daughter after slaying he
Lorina Stephens
Simply put, Joseph Boyden's The Orenda is a timeless and imperative read for every Canadian. Even if you're not Canadian, you should read this novel. It will edify, illuminate, shatter, and complete your understanding of society during 17th century First Nations and European first contact. That The Orenda did not make the short list for either the Giller or the GG is quite incomprehensible. If ever there were a novel, and an author, worthy of our attention, our praise, and our accolades, it is T ...more
5 stars - Utterly amazing.

For my friends that know me well, the star rating on this book should speak for itself. The addition of it to my "favorites" shelf essentially makes the need for a review pointless, but allow me to gush.

This unforgettable story unfolds through the eyes of three narrators, a tricky novel setup, but one that works very well here. Contrary to what I normally experience with similar books, there was no favorite narrator and each point of view was captivating and engaging. T
Maybe it's unfair to rate The Orenda as I'm not sure I'm going to finish it. A little less than a hundred pages to go. But what a tough slog. Too much unnecessary historical detail and too little story, literary or otherwise. Plus, none of the characters are all that original (Read: Interesting). Not enough "human stain" about them. They leave me feeling nothing but apathy. But what is worse, Boyden's first 2 novels, The Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce, were so great--- 4 stars each!
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fabulous book...I read the whole thing, all 490 pages of it, in one sitting. it's now 2am, so am going to bed.
Laura Frey (Reading in Bed)
So I guess I'll call in sick tomorrow because this book just knocked me on my ass. Also need to recover from retro active Giller outrage.
I loved this book. Powerful, evocative, and a real education. I'd like to say all Canadians know the stories of the Huron, Jesuits, the Iroquois/Wendat (Huron) Indian wars, Martyr Shrine, Jean de Brebeuf - but it may be too much of an Ontario history; but I'm sure there are tales like this wherever there were missionaries, native peoples and the clash of tribes or cultures.

Set in the majestic Georgian Bay area, Pere Christophe is a Jesuit missonairy who has come into Wendat territory to convert
I really took my time with this once I realized I could neglect it and pick it up again without losing the thread and atmosphere. I think I was somewhat afraid to get to the end because I knew it would be hard to read. I was right about that, but every event that unfolded in the last 75 pages or so was a surprise. Boyden did not protect his readers, so do be prepared for some painful moments, but some breathtakingly beautiful ones too.

Sometimes when you spend so much time with a book the conclu
Daniel Kukwa
This is, quite simply, an extraordinary achievement. I'm not sure whether to classify this story as a triumphant tragedy or a tragic triumph...but it certainly stands as a work of historical/anthropological genius. The ultimate clash of cultures, searing emotions, and beautifully drawn characters -- it is a book you will be unable to put down. Exhilarating, terrifying, and touching, it is the summation of all that is civilized & barbaric in mankind, from three points of view. It is a story a ...more
It’s hard to even begin writing about The Orenda, which is a powerful history of the Canadian nation. We Caucasian Canadians often forget that our history didn’t begin with the fur traders, the explorers, and the missionaries, that there were long established civilizations in the New World which had their own languages, values, and inter-group relations. Joseph Boyden reminds us of our Eurocentric bias and he is very much the man for the job. He is of Scots, Irish, and Anishinaabe (which you may ...more
I had such a hard time picking a rating for this book. On the one hand, there are passages of prose that are mind-blowingly beautiful and heartbreaking. And the world Boyden has recreated in his pages is so real you can almost touch it. And I am in awe of his ability to tell such a complicated history without the obvious assigning of blame. That is, indeed, one of his themes.

However. In cleaving so closely to history, he has forsaken story. In telling us that history through the eyes of 3 charac
4.5/5 stars

The whole time I was reading this book, and as I talked to people about my experience while reading it, I tried to figure out why I liked this book so much. Plot-wise the story is quite slow, and while the writing is nice, it's nothing extremely special. But the characters, I think, are what really make this story stand out.

The Orenda follows three narrators: Bird, a Huron tribesman; his captive daughter, Snow Falls; and a French missionary, Christophe. We get alternating chapters fro
Boyden's Three Day Road is one of my favourite novels, and I was really looking forward to The Orenda. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like the characters or the story engaged me as much as those in Three Day Road. As all the reviews say, The Orenda is an epic tale, and it presents a much more nuanced view of the early Jesuit presence in Canada than Brian Moore's Black Robe. The book won me over in the end, but I found the early parts hard going. Lots of graphic description of torture that was hard ...more
What to say about this book? Wow! An epic Canadian masterpiece portraying the 17th century Huron / Iroquois wars and the Jesuit priests who journeyed from France to spread Christianity and to persuade the natives to give up their own spirit (orenda) worship. A book filled with beauty, compelling characters, but with some of the most gruesome scenes imaginable.It is a book of love of family and friends,beauty of the land, righteousness,brutality, acts of kindness and sacrifice, and vivid descript ...more
Without a doubt, one of the greatest books I've read in the past few years. I could not put it down. Joseph Boyden is, quite possibly, Canada's greatest living writer.
We own a cottage in Huronia (central Ontario, Canada), so for decades I have frolicked in the geographical area where the less-than-frolicsome historical events from which Joseph Boyden drew his inspiration took place. We canoe for pleasure on the same waters where First Nations people and the French engaged in life-saving trade and life-ending battles. We spend touristy afternoons at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, a reconstruction of the 17th-Century French Jesuit mission where the peaceful coe ...more
It's quite an achievement to be able to write a 500 page novel that can be read in a few sittings and it certainly speaks to the clearness and simplicity of the writing. The story, well that's more complicated.

The opening chapters were confusing, it took me a while to ground myself and figure out the immediate back stories of the characters, before the narrative settles down. I especially enjoyed the scenes depicting the life of the Wendat: the planting, the hunting, the description of moving a
*The Orenda* is well plotted historical fiction with reasonably complex characters, but its thematic questions are muddy. The plot, narrated from the three, alternating first person perspectives of Bird (the warrior), Snow Falls (the damsel) and Christophe (the Jesuit) has a classic development. In a three act structure the plot introduces our three characters and their relationships, sets the conflicts and sees the climax and resolution. The structure appropriately mirrors what Boyden has setup ...more
This is a creation story. It is about the roots of our country, our society and the forces that battled for supremacy. I found it simple, yet profound. The Orenda splits points of view between Bird, a mature Huron warrior, Snow Falls, the daughter he adopted after slaughtering her Iroquois family and The Crow a Jesuit priest who wants to bring "the savages" into the light of the Catholic faith. While the caressing of enemies was disturbing between native tribes, perhaps more unnerving was the pr ...more
There are so many great reviews of this book talking about its historical importance to Canadian history. This book tells an important story, not the ones taught in our classrooms. Although it got very brutal in parts and hard to stomach, I am very glad I got to experience this story. I liked the style of telling this story from three different viewpoints, I felt the story brought the reader along on a journey, and set the reader in amongst the characters to experience what they were experiencin ...more
Getting past the BRUTAL torture scenes, this is a wonderfully written story. You are transported into the world of Canada past through the eyes of those who grew up on the land as well as those who sought to save the 'savages'. I was completely mesmerized to the point that I finished the last part of the book from 3 to 5 in the morning!
Barth Siemens
Hope. That's what I'm left with at the end of this book. Three voices tell a story of a horrendous time in our history; telling of excruciating personal events. And the strength of orenda within each of us.
I can honestly say that The Orenda is like nothing else I’ve ever read. Told from the alternating, first person perspectives of Bird, Snow Falls, and Father Christophe, Boyden’s narrative and storytelling is so subtly crafted and well-researched that it would be easy at times to mistake this novel for beautifully written first-hand recorded histories. It was actually necessary for me to keep a glossary of words and definitions (Haudenosaunee, ottet, Wendat, Anishnaabe) as my constant and ever-gr ...more
Chihoe Ho
It was a deservingly bold move when the Indigo Book Team put out a full-page ad in the Globe & Mail, stating, "Unjustly and inexplicably excluded from the Giller Prize shortlist, we feel that The Orenda is the best Canadian novel published in 2013." At least Canada Reads 2014 had the wisdom of awarding the right book, giving it the due acknowledgement it commanded. Could it change our nation? I don't know. I do know that "The Orenda" will emerge as a timeless Canadian piece of literature, on ...more
But, honestly, what did you expect? General information: this Canadian edition was published in 2013 and has less than 500 pages. The set up of the chapters is split between Snow Falls, Christophe and Bird. The titles of the chapters are words contained within the chapter itself and tend to be a hint, a premonition of what's to come. Something to keep in mind: when in the point of view of Christophie, you must take into account that you're looking at him, a 17th century man, through the eyes of ...more
Lauren Simmons
Firstly; I'm not a fan of sweeping historical narratives, which I was under the impression this would be, but thankfully, it was not. This book offers the perspectives of three unique narrators on a particularly important period in time, essentially the evolution of a great war between the Huron, Iroquois and French, over 400 years ago, but remains remarkably relatable and simple. I actually think, despite the length, there's an efficiency to the language here that's refreshing - there's a tende ...more
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Joseph Boyden is a Canadian novelist and short story writer.

He grew up in Willowdale, North York, Ontario and attended the Jesuit-run Brebeuf College School. Boyden's father Raymond Wilfrid Boyden was a medical officer renowned for his bravery, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was the highest-decorated medical officer of World War II.

Boyden, of Irish, Scottish and Métis heritage
More about Joseph Boyden...
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