It’s no secret that I love historical fiction and Canadian fiction, so when I was asked if I wanted to review The Bride of New France I jumped. I moved to Canada from the U.S. back in 1993. I have learned quite a bit of Canadian history but I never really understood the French Connection. I knew we had two official languages here, French and English. I always wondered, why French. The Bride of New France answered that question.
In 1669, Laure Beausejour, an orphan imprisoned with prostitutes, the insane and other forgotten women in Paris’ infamous Salpetriere, is sent across the Atlantic to New France as a Fille du roi. Laure once dreamed with her best friend Madeleine of using her needlework stills to become a seamstress on the Rue Saint-Honoré and to one day marry a gentleman. The King, however, needs French women in his new colony and he finds a fresh supply in the city’s largest orphanage. Laure and Madeleine know little of the place called New France, except for stories of ferocious winters and men who eat the hearts of French priests. To be banished to Canada is a punishment worse than death.
Bride of New France explores the challenges of coming into womanhood in a brutal time and place. From the moment she arrives in Ville-Marie (Montreal), Laure is expected to marry and produce children with a French soldier who can himself barely survive the harsh conditions of his forest cabin. But Laure finds, through her clandestine relationship with Deskaheh, an allied Iroquois, a sense of the possibilities in this New World.
What happens to a woman who attempts to make her own life choices in such authoritative times?
I loved this book except for the ending. Laure Beausejour was snatched from her parents, at a young age, on the streets in France one night. Why, what was their crime? They were dirt poor and lived on the streets. She was brought to Salpetriere, the same place where prostitutes and the insane were brought.
She was lucky though, in a way. She was on a floor where orphans were taught how to make lace and sew. She even had dreams of becoming a seamstress one day. That dream what ripped away from her when she was put on a ship bound for New France, now known as Canada. The king had prostitutes and teenage women beginning their child bear years sent to New France to marry the men there. He wanted them to stay there and populate. He gave men incentives and wives to entice them to stay.
Life in New France was hard. Laurie’s new husband left her in their rugged (an understatement) cabin alone for the first entire Winter and after that, whenever he felt like it. She had to learn new skills quick and had a hard time feeding herself. On top of that, she finally gets pregnant and he still leaves.
Those are just the basic highlights because I don’t want to risk spoilers. This is Suzanne Desrocher’s first book. However, she took great command of her pen with amazing that captured time and place. Her characters were well drawn out and the essence of the new barren land was beautiful.
Like I said, I loved this book! The only thing missing was a satisfying ending. I felt like I was left hanging. What happens to poor Laurie? Mrs. Desrochers, inquiring minds want to know! Do I smell a sequel? I sure hope so! Highly recommended.
I received this book for my honest review.