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Black Robe

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  738 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
Black Robe is the powerful tale of a Jesuit missionary's struggles with the fierce natives of an unforgiving land—and with the heavy burden of his own unforgiving conscience. The story is set in seventeenth-century Canada, an untamed country claimed by the French, controlled by the Jesuits, but belonging to the natives. Father Laforgue sets out on his mission sustained by ...more
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published May 30th 1985 by Jonathan Cape (first published January 1st 1985)
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Oct 11, 2009 George rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While an excellent read in itself, I found this work especially illuminating when read in conjunction with Alan Greer's selections from the Jesuit Relations, the historical backbone to the novel.

A work of historical fiction, the novel narrates the journey of one French Jesuit, Fr. Larogue, and his young French lay servant, from Quebec to a Jesuit mission deep in Huron country. A band of Algonquin natives guide Fr. Larogue towards his destination. They do so, however, not in a spirit of goodwill
What a find this author has been - the second book I've read by Moore and each book has been such a diverse and captivating read. I remember seeing the movie adaption of the novel many years ago and tend to think that the novel itself way surpasses the movie.

The story is of Father Laforgue, a Jesuit missionary comfortable in his faith who travels to an isolated mission in the wilds of Quebec to relieve fellow Missionaries and bring the word of God to the Savages. The journey becomes one of endur
Tom Conyers
Jun 25, 2014 Tom Conyers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a tense, action-packed, river adventure about Jesuit missionaries trying to bring 'civilisation' to the Huron, Iroquois, and Algonkin tribes. Moore shows up some of the absurdities in the thinking of the Jesuits but is also quite sympathetic in his portrayal of them. I also liked the way he presented the Indians as earthy. They were sometimes vulgar, yes, but they could also be wise and funny. He didn't, though, present them monochromatically, as either unrepentant savages, or paragons o ...more
John Kenny
Mar 23, 2012 John Kenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I’ve always ranked Brian Moore as one of Ireland’s premiere writers, up there with John McGahern and William Trevor. In my mind’s eye, I see McGahern presenting the viewpoint of Catholic Ireland, Trevor giving the dispossessed Protestant angle on things and Moore representing Northern Ireland. Of course, I’m being unfair in ring fencing three of our greatest writers in such a cavalier fashion. All are far more versatile that that.

Moore, in particular, produced in his lifetime a wide ranging var
Mary Alice
Jun 30, 2013 Mary Alice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Fascinating historical novel about the French Jesuits and the Indians of Canada. Much of the source background was taken from the journals of the Jesuits living in Canada in the 1600s. This is not your typical white-man-steals-from-Indian story. It's the tale of religious men who sacrifice themselves in order to bring Christ to the "savages". Becoming a martyr may be the highest calling. The Indians, the "savages" are a dangerous people, who believe the Jesuits, "the Black Robes", are sorcerers. ...more
Although I can't attest to the vulgarity of the language or some of the customs, not being that familar with my history, I have read that Catholic priests of that era who ventured into those areas met with physical torture at least as extreme as described by Moore in this novel.

Not an "enjoyable" read, for me at least, but informative. The clash of cultures and depth of misunderstanding between the groups couldn't be more heartbreaking. It's a wonder there's any understanding, peace or compassio
Apr 24, 2014 Margaret rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: catholic-fiction
Black Robe offers a portrait of the fictional Father Laforgue, in his missionary work among the Huron people in the mid-17th century. The title of the book refers to the North American native term for Catholic missionary priests, who in this era were primarily French Jesuits.

Brian Moore did serious research in an effort to insure historical accuracy in this novel. Taking a clue from Graham Greene’s Essays, Moore located Francis Parkman’s 1867 history, The Jesuits in North America, Volume 2 of
Jun 09, 2009 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite an interesting read, exploring the relationship between French colonists (especially Jesuit missionaries) and the Algonquins, Hurons and Iroquois in the harsh, untamed Canadian wilds. The book explores this clash of cultures and religions from various vantage points and managed to do so without whitewashing either side's nature. The middle of the book is also fairly suspenseful, as the sick priest travels with a group of Algonquins through Iroquoi country. He's just shy of being abandoned ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Karen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the very few examples I can say that the movie is better than the novel. There are some pretty critical differences between the film and the text, and i would say that while the film has its historical problems, the book suffers from some severe ones, not the least of which is its animalistic portrayal of Native Americans. In this case, I'd watch the film and skip the book.
Dec 27, 2015 Krista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“We have become as bad as the Normans themselves. All we think of is things. We have become greedy and stupid like the hairy ones.”

“Yes that is true,” said Awandouie. “Perhaps that is how the Normans will destroy us. Not in war, but by a spell that makes us like them.”

Black Robe was recommended to me as being similar to The Orenda (one of my all time favourite reads), and after finishing it, I can say that the two books are not only similar but share many of the exact same details – the sevent
Steven Langdon
Nov 20, 2011 Steven Langdon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: super
Brian Moore has written many diverse and excellent novels, but "Black Robe" stands out for me as a particularly powerful and extraordinary book. On one level, it is a dramatic re-telling of the penetration of the entirely new world of 1600's central Canada by the French Jesuits and other European arrivals -- a mind-shattering adventure for many of them that shook their fundamental beliefs and styles of life. On another level, it is a remarkable exploration of the interplay of two mutually uncomp ...more
Kimberley Shaw
The point-of-view shifts aren't as complete as they should be -- would an Algonquian really call his own people "savage"? This kept me from enjoying the novel as much as I might have. Moore's attempt at native-eye view is impressive all the same, even if incomplete. The crude language and torture scenes, so off-putting to some readers *did* fit the frontier/war environment. And despite a few too many "deus ex machina" devices at the end of the novel, I did like the portrayal of Laforgue's crisis ...more
Sep 26, 2008 Phil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I saw the movie like 10 years ago in a history class and I liked it so when I saw the book I figured I would give it a shot.

This is a great book if you like historical fiction and a very fast read. It's raunchy, violent, and philosophical-that's pretty much all you need as far as I'm concerned. It gives what seems like a very realistic picture of early colonial Quebec and the interactions between the Jesuits and the Native people.

The author spends a lot of time contrasting the religious/moral/so
Jay Gertzman
Nov 02, 2015 Jay Gertzman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Black Robe is a brilliant contrast between kinds of spirituality. The point of view is Father Paul Laforgue’s. Twice he faces the most horrible torture imaginable. Father Paul’s mission is to bring “Savages” to the possibility of immortality in heaven, far beyond the life of the senses, with its flashes of joy and misery. When he sees an Algonquin die before being baptized, he weeps, not b/c it is a woman murdered before her family, which is in the hands of cannibals—but b/c she has not been bap ...more
Willa Grant
Sep 03, 2009 Willa Grant rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't like this book & I can't really say why. Seemed like an interesting subject but I hated it & felt grubby after I read it. Bleh!
May 25, 2015 Chrisl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hf, natives, canada, 1980s
Another of those I'm hoping to again savor, for the third time through ...


Don't be put off by Moore's dry, rather classroom-like introduction to this lean, powerful theological novel about a 17th-century Jesuit missionary in New France: ""From the works of anthropologists and historians. . . I was made doubly aware of the strange and gripping tragedy that occurred when the Indian belief in the world of night and in the power of dreams clashed with the Jesuits' preachments of Christi
Sep 14, 2013 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A true adventure book where you are drawn into the world of the novel and feel as if your senses, as well as your mind, have been involved. The tale of a Jesuit priest in the mid-1600's who was called to minister to the Indians of the Great Lakes region.

I had seen the movie which was made from the book, and the images had never quite left me. I am glad that I paddled upstream to read the source. The film is excellent, and so is the book. Both are dark, and melancholy - fitting well the setting
Let me get this out right at the start. The first half of Black Robe is a scintillating read, as good as anything I’ve read in the last couple of years. Imagine: the year is 1634. You are somewhere in the wilds of unexplored Quebec, in a native canoe gliding up a nameless river deep into the frozen interior. On either side are towering cliffs of virgin forest, migrating geese fly by above, a pale flat disc shines weakly in a wintry sky. All around you is silence, except for the swish of paddles. ...more
May 17, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Moore's short novel provides many thought provoking situations. The faith testing journey of a Jesuit priest, the seductive side of the hedonistic way of life of the Indian people in North America play off of the "forced" conversions of the Catholic Church and the brutality of the Indians towards each other and the Europeans to make a deep, rich novel. There is a lot in this little book.
Moore doesn't make any characters in this novel out to be the ideal. Each character questions their way of l
This was my second attempt at reading Black Robe and I am glad that I gave it a second chance. The book was about a Jesuit who is travelling through the wilds of Canada in the 1600's to replace a priest who has taken ill at another encampment. The priest travels with to Algonquin Indian chiefs and they're families.
I have mixed feelings about Christian trying to convert those of other fates to Christianity. I am a Christian and believe in God, but I am not sure that it is in the best interest of
James (JD) Dittes
I read this in advance of a road trip to Georgian Bay, Ontario. It is really the story of two men, a young French migrant named Daniel and Father Laforgue, a Jesuit priest on a mission to bend First Nations to the worship of God. Both learn to love the natives, the first in a carnal/romantic way, the latter in a more wholistic fashion.

Many scenes in the book are graphic: of sex, of torture, of a terrible malaria epidemic that lays a whole village to waste. Moore also chooses to personify the nat
Dec 04, 2010 Andrew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brian-moore
Certainly not one of Moore's best novels although the clarity of writing style and evocation are wonderful. Because it is set in a novel location some more context would have enriched the understanding into the motivations of the characters. Nevertheless, it is the embedding of subtle realities that adds to the appeal of Moore's writing. The treatment of language and the brutality have appalled some people but I thought this was a strength by introduced such a strong contrast between characters. ...more
Jun 03, 2011 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
woah. so i read this book thinking it was a story about some jesuits trying to baptize some native americans. turns out, i was right... but wait! there's more! sex, torture, cannibalism, questioning faith, and tons of cursing... this turned out to be more disturbing than what i was looking for.

nonetheless, it got my attention and had me seriously weirded out at one point near the end of the book (if you read it, you'll probably figure out where i went, "WTF?!?" cause my guess is, you'll probably
Muriel Schwenck
Aug 08, 2015 Muriel Schwenck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous story. The movie is not as violent or as sexual. Actually I like the movie a little better, it is not so sensational. But I've read the novel three times.
The story relates the culture shock between very different religions and cultures.
These days, political correctness demands that that we acknowledge the native american point of view over the (in this case) French Catholic Jesuit point of view. Yet each was a firmly entrenched belief. Each devout belief was on a collision course.
This is an effective narrative, which gathers momentum towards a climax reminiscent of Greene's "The Power and the Glory." It does a good job of conveying the incredible hardship experienced by the Jesuit priests who tried to convert the Indians of Canada. The inter-racial love story between Daniel and an Algonquin girl is the weakest element. It feels a bit too pat, and these characters aren't fully realized. Father Laforgue's inner life has more substance, but this isn't primarily a psychologi ...more
Melissa Embry
In his author's note to "Black Robe," Brian Moore reports tracking down the letters Jesuit missionaries sent home, a record of the early Indians of North America, "who, at that early state were in no way dependent on the white man . . . (holding) him in contempt for his stupidity in not realizing that the land, the rivers, the animals, were all possessed of a living spirit. . ." This is the 17th century world that young Father Paul Laforgue enters in Moore's novel, praying for the honor of marty ...more
Apr 03, 2013 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book gives a good idea of what the Jesuits in the seventeenth century faced, the incredible hardships they suffered as they lived their daily lives far from any white-men's civilization. This is the story of a young man who realizes that he will live the rest of his life among the Iroquois, speaking their language & living in their settlements. The most amazing thing to the Iroquois is his celibacy, as they share everything, including women, and they cannot imagine a life without sex.
Jan 20, 2016 Liam89 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful and terrifying. Father Laforgue is a Jesuit priest. In his native France, he was a devoted servant of God. But in the land of the Algonkin, the Huron and the Iroquois, the land of 17th Century French Canada, he is 'Blackrobe', the sinister Norman sorcerer who claims to serve a sky-god who will give the native peoples absolution and eternal paradise if they will only abandon their ways and embrace Christianity. Father Laforgue hopes that this mission will prove him worthy of martyrdom f ...more
Mar 01, 2011 Andrewhouston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book. I should give it at least 3 and a half stars. The writing is very simple, but does a good job of getting into the heads of all its characters. I think it gives a very nuanced perspective of both the French and Algonkins, equally sympathetic and is a great illustration of the misunderstandings between the two cultures. Also, I think the movie which is based on the book, and screen-written by the author is equally good.
Mar 27, 2016 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Father Laforgue, a Jesuit priest, is sent by his superior on a relief mission to a Jesuit outpost deep in the Canadian wilderness. He is accompanied on this perilous journey by a band of Algonquian “savages” (as the Jesuits call them), who are canoeing upriver to their winter hunting grounds before the harsh winter sets in. They have parlayed with the military leader Champlain and agreed to get Father Laforgue through hostile Iroquois country and beyond the “great falls” in exchange for muskets, ...more
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Brian Moore (1921–1999) was born into a large, devoutly Catholic family in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father was a surgeon and lecturer, and his mother had been a nurse. Moore left Ireland during World War II and in 1948 moved to Canada, where he worked for the Montreal Gazette, married his first wife, and began to write potboilers under various pen names, as he would continue to do throughout ...more
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