The Orenda
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The Orenda

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  1,767 ratings  ·  418 reviews
From the Scotiabank Giller Prize-Winning author of Through Black Spruce comes a literary masterpiece steeped in the natural beauty and blood-soaked brutality of our country’s formative years

A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor...more
Hardcover, 501 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Hamish Hamilton (first published September 1st 2013)
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  • The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
    The Orenda: A novel
    Release date: May 13, 2014
    Enter win an advance reading copy of Joseph Boyden's upcoming novel, THE ORENDA.

    “This is quite possibly the best book you could read, ever.

    Framed by a…more
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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...more
    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
    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
    "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...more
    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!
    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...more
    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.
    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
    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
    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 descrip...more
    *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
    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.
    M.J. Perry
    Jan 05, 2014 M.J. Perry rated it 4 of 5 stars
    Recommended to M.J. by: Joanne Thomas Yacatto
    I am told that this book is the third in the "Three Day Road"trilogy. It does not really seem connected to those stories, but does give history to the Wendant people, whom, if memory serves me correctly is the heritage of the main characters of both "Three Day Road" and "Through Black Spruce."

    One of Boyden's unique abilities is to gift the reader with empathy for all characters, even those who are enemies. His use of language opens new possibilities of understanding and leaves me filled with que...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.
    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
    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...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!
    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
    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
    The historical anecdotes underlying The Orenda's plot structure are ones with which I am fairly familiar, since they have appeared in numerous school assignements throughout my years of education. What Boyden brings to the [re]telling, however, is a First Nations perspective that doesn't feel forced or accusatory. The result is a dual-perspective narration that gives equal moral weight to the impressions and cultural assumptions of both the Jesuits and the Wendat people.

    There are perhaps times w...more
    Scott Rudolph
    Orenda: invisible magic power believed by the Iroquois to pervade all natural objects as a spiritual energy.

    Fox calls the new ones charcoal. ”They are as heavy and as dumb,” he says as we watch two of them ahead of us in their hosts’ canoe lamely attempt to paddle. With their fresh robes, so black they absorb the late summer sunshine. I think Fox’s name for them is very good. But I will still call them all crows for the way they hop around and peck at the dead or dying things.

    Ok, so I’m going t...more
    A warning – this book has moments of horrifying violence. But please don’t let that put you off. There’s love and loyalty and family as well. In the Orenda, Boyden has written an extraordinary novel, and in the acknowledgements at the back you can see that he’s done the research. This was, in fact, life in the early 1600’s - ground zero for contact between the aboriginal peoples of the Great Lakes and the Europeans. This is a book, I think, that will still be read and studied fifty years from no...more
    This is a beautiful, haunting book that I have no doubt will stay with me now that it's finished. When I first started it, I was worried by the fact that all three narrators speak in the first person, so I thought it would be confusing. But it is so beautifully written and all three voices are so distinctly created that it wasn't a problem at all. Easily as good as Three Day Road. Boyden is an amazing author.
    Wow. This book can highly recommended and it lived up to those expectations and more; I read the last 150 pages in one sitting as I simply couldn't put it down even though I hated the idea of the book ending. It is brilliantly told from the perspective of three different people, each more distinct from the other and the skill of the writer in adopting these different 'voices' is absolutely incredible.

    Be warned that the book is not for the faint of heart. The stories of killing, torture and savag...more
    Eric Wright
    A very well written historical novel about the arrival of the Jesuits in Huron territory, present day Ontario during the supremacy of France in what was to become Canada.

    The tale is told from alternating perspectives, that of a captured but spirited Iroquois young woman named Snow Falls, Christophe, a Jesuit, missionary who sets out to learn the Huron language and culture while leading them to Christ and a Huron elder, Bird, one of Huron's chief warriors and statesmen. Along with these three we...more
    This was a gripping story of love, family, history, beauty and strength. Evocative and striking, the world Joseph Boyden has described will stay with me for awhile. It gave me a new way to look at my country, our past and our people. I loved it!
    If you have ever romanticized Canadian indigenous cultures, this book will bring you back to reality with a terrible bang. It is a brutal, traumatizing read. Halfway through this book I started having horrible nightmares of a "kill-or-be-killed" fashion.

    The violence is not gratuitous, though. The message is clear: the irony of war is that we are literally killing our own relatives without knowing it.

    I gave this book 5 stars because it refused to follow the typical version of the first contact s...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
    More about Joseph Boyden...
    Three Day Road Through Black Spruce Born with a Tooth Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont: A Penguin Lives Biography Kikwaakew

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    “They laugh at this, the idea that one might keep herds of friendly deer or elk that walk happily to their slaughter whenever it's time for the human to eat meat. Some ask openly if there aren't consequences of a life so easy to live.” 0 likes
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