Abria Mattina's Reviews > Bride of New France

Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers
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Feb 15, 12

bookshelves: review-2012, canadian-fiction
Read from February 11 to 15, 2012

Bride of New France contains one of the most memorable heroines I've encountered in a long time. Laure is the daughter of a street singer, raised in one of Paris's hospitals for the poor and infirm. She dreams big, is strong-willed, and compassion doesn't come easily for her. When she is sent across the sea to Quebec as a filles du roi, Laure meets the challenge with her usual fierce stubbornness. Though she is being sent to marry, keep a household and raise as many children as possible, it's often apparent just how young Laure is. At seventeen she is still somewhat fanciful and clings to the familiar in the face of her harsh new home.

Accompanying Laure across the ocean is Madeleine, a mousy but devout friend from the hospital. Madeleine was fleshed out as a character, but I felt like I had read her before. It seems like in every novel I read about the filles du roi, the heroine is accompanied on her journey by a companion who is more pious, pure of heart, and in general a better person than the heroine. These saintly companions also have a tendency to meet with the greatest misfortune and/or death. This archetype is even in books for young readers, such as Alone in an Untamed Land by Maxine Trottier. I do wish that Madeleine had been given a more original plot line.

Laure is memorable as far as protagonists go, but I didn't feel satisfied when the novel ended and the reader departs from her life. Laure doesn't grow over the course of her very hard years in the colony, she only endures. At the point where the book ends, it feels as though she is just on the cusp of growing into something new and self-made. It would have been more satisfying to see her accomplish some internal development or settlement, rather than just watching Laure grit her teeth through every hardship.

Sometimes the pacing of the book was a little jarring. In order to move the plot forward, Desrochers occasionally skips weeks or months into the future from one chapter to the next. I see why it was done--the book would be too long and slow otherwise--but with some chapters that cover a month and others that only cover a few days, the pacing of the novel felt somewhat uneven.

I was torn between giving this book three and four stars, but ultimately decided on four because it's obvious that Desrochers did a great deal of research and is passionate about her subject. No part of Bride of New France felt tacked-on or held up by the authoritative voice of a historian. Desrochers made it easy to step into the world of seventeenth-century Quebec.

Bride of New France is a good book for people who want to learn more about filles du roi but aren't necessarily ready to go digging through historical non-fiction. The struggles of these women are portrayed with frank realism.
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Reading Progress

02/12/2012 page 73
25.0% "I'm not digging the third person present tense."
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