Bride of New France: A Novel

( 3 )

Overview

Transporting readers from cosmopolitan seventeenth-century Paris to the Canadian frontier, this vibrant debut tells of the struggle to survive in a brutal time and place. Laure Beausejour has been taken from her destitute family and raised in an infamous orphanage to be trained as a lace maker. Striking and willful, she dreams of becoming a seamstress and catching the eye of a nobleman. But after complaining about her living conditions, she is sent to Canada as a fille du roi, expected to marry a French farmer ...
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Bride of New France: A Novel

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Overview

Transporting readers from cosmopolitan seventeenth-century Paris to the Canadian frontier, this vibrant debut tells of the struggle to survive in a brutal time and place. Laure Beausejour has been taken from her destitute family and raised in an infamous orphanage to be trained as a lace maker. Striking and willful, she dreams of becoming a seamstress and catching the eye of a nobleman. But after complaining about her living conditions, she is sent to Canada as a fille du roi, expected to marry a French farmer there. Laure is shocked by the primitive state of the colony and the mingling of the settlers with the native tribes. When her ill-matched husband leaves her alone in their derelict hut for the winter, she must rely on her wits and her clandestine relationship with an Iroquois man for survival.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
During the 17th century, hundreds of poor, lower-class women cast out from French society were shipped to the Canadian frontier to marry fur traders and soldiers and bear their children. Desrochers's debut novel illustrates that their exile was not met with excitement or a sense of adventure by these women, but rather with a sense of danger, sadness, and trepidation. Laure Beausejour grew up in the Salpêtrière, an orphanage and poorhouse in Paris. Despite dreams of becoming a successful seamstress, Laure is sent to Canada at age 17. The primitive wooded landscape, promises of a long and bitter winter, and tales of savage attacks by the native inhabitants greet Laure when she arrives. She marries but finds love and companionship in the one place that can lead only to heartbreak and deep sacrifice. VERDICT This is a dark tale, and readers shouldn't expect a happy ending, but historical fiction fans will appreciate the rich period details and commiserate with believable characters modeled after the founding mothers of French Canada.—Andrea Brooks, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
Kirkus Reviews
Desrochers' debut follows a spirited young woman from a grim charity hospital in 17th-century Paris to the equally challenging Canadian wilderness. Snatched from her parents by a law that forbids begging on the city streets, the best Laure Beauséjour can hope for as an inmate of Salpêtrière Hospital is that her nimble fingers will get her a job with a seamstress, where she can assess single men for their marriageability. She has no interest in the cloistered life, unlike her pious friend Madeleine, who aspires only to become one of the nuns who oversee the hospital's indigent women with varying degrees of severity. But when Laure's ill-judged letter to the king complaining of their treatment results in her being sent to Canada, she persuades Madeleine to join her in the contingent of unruly women destined to atone for their sins by marrying settlers and providing population for New France. The improbable scene in which Madeleine decides to cast her lot with Laure is only one instance of the awkward tone and sketchy motivations that indicate a beginning novelist throughout this oddly conceived and structured narrative. With nearly half the text devoted to Laure's experiences in Paris and the voyage to the New World, the author fails to provide sufficient time and emotional weight for the ordeal in the Canadian wilderness, where the protagonist reluctantly marries an odious fur trader but finds herself drawn to one of the natives the French scornfully call Savages. Desrochers, who drew her fictional inspiration from her research for a masters' thesis at York University on the subject of female immigration, certainly conveys the bleak conditions endured by French settlers, particularly in the stark depiction of Laure facing starvation during her first Canadian winter. But she fails to bring to life any of the characters other than willful Laure, and her self-absorbed heroine is hard to like. Vivid historical background wasted on unengaging fiction.
Globe & Mail
A wholly original example of social history at its best.— John Barber
Booklist
Desrochers sheds new light on an all but forgotten chapter in the history of Canada. . . . The fascinating backstory propels the elegant . . . narrative.— Margaret Flanagan
John Barber - Globe and Mail
“A wholly original example of social history at its best.”
Margaret Flanagan - Booklist
“Desrochers sheds new light on an all but forgotten chapter in the history of Canada. . . . The fascinating backstory propels the elegant . . . narrative.”
Kathleen Grissom
“Bride of New France is a haunting story of a courageous young woman, shipped over from France to the wilderness of Canada in the 17th century. Beautifully written, Suzanne Desrochers uses the rich detail of the time period to tell us of Laure’s remarkable bravery and determination and to remind us again of the resilience of our forbearers.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393073379
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/6/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.54 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Suzanne Desrochers, of French Canadian descent, has conducted extensive research on the filles du roi and is writing a PhD thesis at King’s College London on the migration of women to America. She lives in Toronto.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 23, 2012

    Does it make me a bad Canadian if I say that I don't read very m

    Does it make me a bad Canadian if I say that I don't read very many novels written by Canadian authors? I hope not but it's the truth. I don't read many novels written by Canadian authors and I think it's a real shame so I'm hoping to make up for that in the new year. I think the main reason I have an issue with Canadian authors is because the books written by them tend to be literature which while I love the genre I can't read to many books like that or else I start feeling a bit pretentious.

    Anyways last month I was browsing the shelves of my local library branch and I came across Bride of New Frances and after looking at the cover which I find to be gorgeous. Seriously, look at it. Isn't it a beaut? So once again you can see I was taken in by yet another pretty cover and we all know that can lead to the book being a hit or miss for me and this one was a miss.

    The story starts off in France where we are introduced to Laure and her best friend Madeleine who are both living in Salpetriere hospital before they are whisked away to New France to be brides to the men who live in the rough, and often deadly New World in order to give the men a reason to stay and build the population of New France up thus lessening the burden of them on France if the settlers were to move back. While on the journey though Madeleine falls ill and ultimately passes away when the two girls reach their destination leaving Laure alone and unsure in the unwelcoming wilderness that is now her home.

    While this book sounds like there is an air of adventure, and promise between the pages due to the fact that it's about a young woman who is now forced to start her life anew. Unfortunately this one wasn't particularly rich with historical detail, or an air of adventure even when she breaks a cultural taboo and has to do something that will break her heart. There was no emotional depth to Laure and I thought that was very unfortunate.

    I had several problems with the novel. First off was the way it was told. I just couldn't get into it. Yes I read the book in it's entirety, but it wasn't at all what I expected. For me the whole novel lacked the ability to draw me in there was nothing engrossing about it at all. It lacked depth and read more as though the author were writing a summer of events that took place in a novel rather than writing the novel itself. I also had trouble connecting with Laure because very little about her character as well as the other characters and I found them to be very one dimensional.

    The plot though was the biggest disappointment because of the way it was written like a summary of a novel. There was a lot of promise in the plot and I kept hoping that it would get better and become more engrossing as I went on but sadly it didn't. A lot more detail could have been paid towards the characters and the history of Canada then there was so for me this book just didn't live up to my expectations. It turned out to be more of a filler novel to me where I just read it to read it. I may have enjoyed bits and pieces of it here and there but ultimately the book jut wasn't for me and was mediocre at best.

    If I were to recommend this novel it would probably be towards people that enjoy historical fiction set in Canada and historical fiction in general. While the book wasn't up to my standards for a good work of historical fiction that doesn't mean that you shouldn't give it a try yourself. If the author does write another novel I'm still more than willing to give her another try to see if I like her other works better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Oh, I really loved this book! First of all, who wouldn't love t

    Oh, I really loved this book! First of all, who wouldn't love the cover? It spoke to me from the book shelf... The woman's profile so mysterious and dark and then edged all around like a cut out, gilt paper snowflake. I had to pick it up.

    And listen to the first quote inside:

    "But what shall I tell you of migrations when in this empty sky
    the precise ghosts of departed summer birds
    still trace old signs."

    Leonard Cohen
    "The Sparrows," In Let Us Compare Mythologies

    Poetic and beautiful? Yes, and so is the book.


    Suzanne Desrochers doesn't write like a novelist, particularly. She's obviously a researcher who is working on her thesis, as is expressed right up front. But what she has is a heart for her research material. She has a sensibility for it, and she's translated that to her story in a most magnificent way.

    While her plot development rests safely in the hands of history, Ms Desrocher is called upon to create the life of her protagonist Laure Beausejour within the confines of the times in Paris and then in Montreal in its savage and New World days. The story is absorbing in fine details of the asylum Laure has to bear as a child, the ship she must sail in and her ultimate sufferings as a lonely and mistreated wife in the barrens of Canada.

    What's lacking in this otherwise gorgeous novel is real heart and emotion. It really pains me to say that I didn't feel the strong emotions that should have been evoked from some of the dire circumstances presented. There were many examples of human suffering, and several examples where great love and passion are told. But the maturity of writing that would cause a reader not just to read about these passions, but to actually experience them along with the characters was missing in this book. I chalk it up to being a debut novel from a very brilliant student of migration of women to North America. She had lovable characters in mind and a great story to tell about them, but the heart of the emotions seemed difficult to pull off in every case. Sometimes it did work, but many opportunities were missed.

    The author shows much promise in this book, however. I loved reading the story. It was beautiful and absorbing as a tale of hardship and love...the struggles of women in the early days of populating North America. Days when sailing across the Atlantic was as dangerous as flying to the moon, and the prospect of finding a husband in Canada was as frightening as finding one in Afghanistan. My heart went out to Laure, her darling friend and her heroic lover.

    This is a book well worth the reading. I'm so glad I took a chance on it. I highly recommend it, and I hope Ms Desrochers will continue with her novel writing. She shows great promise! I'll be buying her next book...

    PS: Lovers of needlework will love the references to Laure and her

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The author gives us an interesting look into the history of the

    The author gives us an interesting look into the history of the settling of French Canada with characters with whom the reader can relate and embrace. However, there are few bright spots, if any, in the story leaving me with a feeling of bleak sadness and no hope for the future of the heroine. It is very likely that this is a very real outcome of the historical circumstances but as a "pleasure read" this left me unhappy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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