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Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Murderer. Salesman. Pirate. Adventurer. Cannibal. Co-founder of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Known to some as the first European to explore the upper Mississippi, and widely as the namesake of ships and hotel chains, Pierre-Esprit Radisson is perhaps best described, writes Mark Bourrie, as “an eager hustler with no known scruples.” Kidnapped by Mohawk warriors at the age of fi
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Biblioasis
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  364 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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I remember first hearing about Radisson and Groseilliers in about Grade 5, when I think they were called “explorers” or “fur traders.” I also recall my mother calling them Radishes and Gooseberries. Imagine my surprise to find that Groseilliers actually does mean gooseberries!

In many ways, Pierre-Esprit Radisson is a better and a worse man than you would expect from the few facts that I encountered in grade school. He seems to have been able to roll along with whatever situation he encountered,
Alex Binkley
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Canadian history books pay too little attention to the impact of the arrival of Europeans in North America during the 1600s and 1700s. When they do look at that period, their message is usually about European settlers transforming the primitive continent.
In his new book Bush Runner, Ottawa author Mark Bourrie portrays the European arrival much differently through an unvarnished account of the life of Pierre Radisson. Radisson has stayed in the history books for his role in developing the fur tra
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Informed, engaging, great view on history

If you only ever read one book about seventeenth century Canada, make it Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson by Ottawa author Mark Bourrie.

It weaves the compelling story of one man’s life into the big-picture events of his times and into a profound account of the forces that shaped our country.

Radisson’s name and an outline of his place in North American history are known to anyone who has attended grade school in Canada.  We were taught
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Lies, murder, and plunder aside, Radisson left us with the story of a remarkable man, a very free man in a time when they were rare... and a brave man who must have been a tremendous dinner companion, as long as you weren't on the menu."

I honestly don't recall ever learning about Radisson at any point in school, but this sounded like a good adventure story - and it was. Bourrie was able to grab me right from the intro, where he actually had me laughing a couple times. He is serious about his su
Meredith Caplan Jamieson
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book needs to be mandatory reading in all North American history classes. Finally the story of the early explorers of North America, by a character worthy of name recognition as Columbus. Radisson is indeed the Forest Gump of the late 1600 and his infiltration of the Indigenous communities, the English court, Pirates of off Spain and near death escapades makes this non-fiction history a must read.
Nathan Ells
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Terrific read for historical geeks, especially those with an interest in North America and early interactions between Europeans and Aboriginals. Well researched and truly fascinating throughout, Radisson's life plays out like a grand adventure film with cunning and ruthless trade missions in the wilds of Canada and the Great Lakes region which are wonderfully contrasted by accounts of London during the Plague and the Great Fire. Bushrunner has a wide appeal and does a good job of unpacking the c ...more
Enid Wray
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
I remember being fascinated by ‘Gooseberry and Raspberry’ when I was learning Canadian history way back when. Oh what a sanitised and privileged understanding I was presented with… Thank goodness we’ve come a long way since then (not saying that we’ve not still got a long way to go).

This title helps us continue moving forward in the right direction. I agree with the author that ‘everyone deserves a good story’ and as someone with an interest in historical geography I am fascinated by the events
Norman Smith
Bourrie's book provides a great deal of insight into life in 17th Nouvelle France, through the life of one of its most adventurous characters, Pierre Radisson. Radisson also spent half his life in England and France, but there he was a minor character.

I found this book to be quite readable, and enjoyable. Radisson is not presented as heroic; indeed, he was a murderer among other crimes. It also deals with the lives of the First Nations people of the time, presenting them as rounded, sophisticate
Oct 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love sound historical books and this one did not disappoint. As a kid growing up I watched on CBC the series on Radisson and always had a special interest in this dude ! The book I finished reading was his biography and detailed explicitly who he actually was, his tribulations in life, and his impact on the fur trade in Canada and more specifically the building of the Hudson Bay Company. Usually non fictional books are sometimes rather dry in content, but this one read like a fictional novel. ...more
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This may be the first book that I have read about Canadian history in the 1600s since high school but it will certainly not be the last. Raddison’s detailed accounts of his times with the indigenous peoples of Canada were the most interesting parts of the book. Although two maps were provided in the appendix, it would be more helpful if detailed maps were provided throughout the book with notable places highlighted on them. I found myself having to google many of the places to get a understandin ...more
Martin Tolton
Dec 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who thinks Canadian history is boring should read this and lovers of history will no doubt enjoy this book. It is a fantastic account of 17th century Canada, with a glimpse of New York, London, Paris, and Amsterdam. Pierre Radisson were he fiction would be a peer to Flashman were Flashman born two hundred years earlier.

An adventurer who survived numerous Atlantic crossings, Mohawk captivity, the Plague, the Great Fire at least one revolution, a winter in Hudsons Bay, and a couple of stra
Bjorn Radstrom
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the few books I've read that I really felt like I couldn't put down. It's not only a fascinating story, but it's exciting, and so vividly told. There aren't enough good books about Canadian history that read like novels, but this is definitely the best one I've come across.

The details about life amongst the various indigenous groups is by far the most interesting aspect. We never really get a sense of indigenous history in Canada apart from fluff about the fur trade, tee-pees, and the fac
Margret Doucette-phillips
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great info on our country and on Radisson's travels ...more
Susan Brunner
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book’s full title is Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson by Mark Bourrie. I loved this book. This is a book I got at a Ben McNally Brunch at the King Eddie. These are great events as you get a good breakfast at the King Eddie and hear four authors speak about their books. I have bought a number of books at these events as the most of the speakers are great. The link is here. It is hard to say if there will be more events at this point.

I had heard, of course, about Pierre R
Dec 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Mark Bourrie’s “Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson” is a delightful biography of not only the man at the centre of the book, but also of the unromantic forces that shaped early European colonial exploitation of what is now Canada. It is at its best when the charismatic rogue is himself in the spotlight, fading only slightly as larger political forces sideline Radisson.

Pierre-Esprit Radisson came to New France (modern Québec) as a young boy with little expected of him. Intellig
Ben Truong
Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson is a biography of Pierre-Esprit Radisson, co-founder of the Hudson's Bay Company. Mark Bourrie is a Canadian lawyer, blogger, journalist, author, historian, and lecturer at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, wrote this biography.

This book serves as an entry (A prize-winning book) in The Indigo Reading Challenge 2021. It won the most recent RBC Taylor Prize (2020) – one of the few prize winners that I have yet to read for the ye
Jul 17, 2020 rated it liked it
This is the story of one of the founders of the Hudson Bay Company who is thus foundational to our Canadian history, Pierre Radisson was captured and adopted by the Iroquois as a reckless teenager sent to the colonies by his under involved parents. He is adopted by the Mohawk, after proving his courage, and learns various indiginous languages and cultures which he turns to his advantage after escaping. somehow surviving a few failed attempts. Radisson's written narrtives provide an important his ...more
Ryan Macdonald
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
WOW! This is a Phenomenal book. Exciting, thrilling, extremely informative and packed full of hard to find information.

The book follows the life of Pierre Radisson, Who at the age of 15 was kidnapped by Mohawk warriors from his home near the small settlement of Trois-Rivières in New France. He was later adopted into the tribe. A cultural practise I have heard mentioned off hand in other Native peoples history refereeing to the great lakes region's people but have never been able to find more in
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bush Runner provides a unique glimpse into the life Pierre Radisson that has never really been told as well as a sense of the lives and cultures of various indigenous peoples in the 1600s not long after settlers came to North America. Radisson's life was beyond belief. Clearly a con man through and through, he traversed eastern North America a number of times when few white people ever had, as well as sailed between Europe and North America several times looking for a way to strike it rich throu ...more
Mar 19, 2020 added it
Award winning book on legendary fur trader Pierre Radisson. His travel took him many places. Born in France he early on travelled to New France where he was captured by Iroquois. Narrowly averting death he was adopted by the Indigenous people and learned their language and ways. This experience provided the basis for his future success. He worked for the Dutch, French and most of all the British selling his services to the highest bidder. The trip that he took with Groseilliers, his brother in l ...more
Steven Langdon
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Pierre Radisson was a favorite of our high school Canadian history texts, with what was described as a crucial role in building the fur trade for New France.

Now Mark Bourrie has written a much more probing book about this remarkable man, drawing on recently discovered manuscripts he had written for various French and British kings and aristocrats. This unusual biography has been published by Biblioasis, the innovative Windsor company.

Radisson was captured by the Iroquois when he was very young
Luce Cronin
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book, based on Radisson's journals, has opened my eyes to a lot of goings-on of which I knew nothing, or simply did not realize. When being taught history, facts are presented. Now I wonder how many people really think about these facts and what they imply. From reading this book, I can see that Canadian history from the 17th century revolves mainly around financial gain - from all sides. This country as it is now depended on money issues at the time and it involved all parties, - Dutch, Fr ...more
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A good read, especially about Radisson's engagements with the First Nation communities in Canada in the 17th century. Kidnapped by Mohawk warriors at the age of fifteen, Radisson was eventually adopted by a leading family, only to escape after almost a year and ending up on a Dutch sailing ship to Holland. The early chapters portray the many survival challenges faced by a young person at that time and give insight into how Radisson's experiences with the Mohawks and other indigenous peoples shap ...more
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was fantastic! I learned so much about the history of 17th century Canada (and the world) in this biography of Radisson. He was quite a character - a Frenchman who really looked out for himself at all cost. Whether it was surviving capture by Iroquois, feeling betrayed by the French or the English, he did what he had to do, changing allegiances with the wind, just to stay alive and afloat. He did business with everyone and anyone: Canada's Indigenous people, French, British, Dutch. And ...more
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, enlightening, well researched and well written. Can’t ask for anything more from a non fiction book. Pierre-Espirit Radisson (approx 1636-1710) and his brother-in-law, Medard des Groseilliers are well known to any Canadian student. They were given the first Royal Charter to form the Hudson’s Bay Company and to develop the fur trade in Northern Canada for Britain. Radisson lived the life of a scoundrel, a cheat, a pauper, a traitor, a trader, and an adventurer. But, he did write abou ...more
Rick Book
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the way Canadian history should be told, not in dry, turgid textbooks but in riveting page-turners that read like adventure novels, which in this case, has a multi-talented and deeply-flawed scoundrel for a protagonist who spoke several Aboriginal languages, was at home in the forests and the birchbark canoes of the Great Lakes region, double-crossed the English, French and Dutch colonial powers, married and abandoned several wives, founded the Hudson's Bay Company's fur trade business, ...more
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I learned a great deal about early Canadian history through this well researched, and well written story of the life of Radisson. He and his partner Groseillers made a sanitized appearance in my school history books as French Canadian explorers and fur traders, but I had no idea that Radisson was captured and adopted by the Iroquois, that he was a savant in terms of learning languages and mastered a number of indigenous languages as well as English, that he was instrumental in convincing investo ...more
Patricia Ruban
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have always been fascinated by the coureurs du bois; the French, Metis and Indian trappers of North and far North America. Take a look at a map and you will find major cities with French names; DuBois, Idaho; for example. On the other hand, pick up a telephone directory for Detroit (the straits) or Windsor, and you should notice the preponderance of French surnames. Where there were French, there were Indians and much trade took place at the confluences of great rivers.

Kidnapped by the Mohawk
Chris R.
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Growing up in Quebec, and with ancestors who’d worked in the fur trade, I’d always been aware of Radisson and his partner Grosseliers. My teachers often mentioned them, too, as adventurers and founders of the Hudson Bay Company.
Looking back, though, I don’t think anyone mentioned Radisson’s lack of scruples, his cannibalism, his Caribbean adventures, his lawsuits and penury, his court intrigues, his many wives, his prodigious capacity to learn new languages, and so on.
Bourrie does a great of su
Derrick Grose
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I may be biased by my nostalgic recollections of growing up with Radisson and Groseillers when my infatuation with history was just beginning, but I enjoyed the conversational tone of Mark Bourie's biography of Radisson. In addition to telling the familiar story of Radisson’s adoption by the Iroquois and subsequent escapes from them and his adventures as a fur trader, it also covers in some detail his sojourn in London in the era after the plague and the great fire. I think the author’s point wa ...more
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