Before we get started I should probably say that I have a bit of a bias against Canadian Literature. I know, I’m ashamed of myself. I should be promoting Canadian writers and publishers, screaming their names from the rooftop. But I so rarely connect with Canadian literature. On purpose anyway. I definitely don’t seek out titles because they are Canadian.
There are exceptions of course. But I suspect that that is the case only to prove the rule, so to speak.
I say this because I’m about to talk about Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers and I want so badly to give it a fair shake. This is Desrochers’ first novel about the filles du roi, the girls that were sent to New France by the French King to populate this new French colony. Only when they got there, they realized that there was almost nothing there – just some basic log houses in the middle of nowhere and they were expected to have lots of babies and spend horribly cold winters all alone while their husbands went off hunting for pelts. Oh and the Natives were really scary too.
Bride of New France is the story of Laure, a girl ripped away from her family who spends her adolescence in a kind of orphanage where they teach her how to be a seamstress and lace maker in the hopes that one day she will be able to make her own living. But she has a bad attitude and in the end, she is sent with a whole bunch of other girls to New France. Once she gets there she still has a bad attitude, hates her husband, spends a freezing winter alone in her log house, has an affair with a Native guy and well…I don’t want to spoil the whole thing but bad things happen.
It was a short novel, less than 300 pages and I kind of felt that in the end we were wrapping things up quickly. Like we spent so much time on the boat to Canada, discussing the horrid on board conditions and all the illness and how the sailors hated having so many women on board, that we ran out of time for actual story. I liked the part in France though, that took a while too but in a good way.
The end was kind of heart wrenching but by this point, I really didn’t care about Laure. I should probably be more romantic about the situation, but she made her bed and she had to lie in it. Or some other cliché that means the same thing.
I will say that I enjoyed the fictional glimpse at what it was probably more or less like for those early settlers in Canada. Hell. Freezing cold, starving hell. I definitely could not ever have been any kind of settler – too delicate. And these women were sent against their will without really knowing what was awaiting them on the other side.
But mostly? I enjoyed being done with this one.
Harsh but true.