Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Book Review: Bride of New France

It's a National Bestseller, described as the best piece of historical fiction one reviewer has read in a long time while another describes it as a moody, beautiful piece of historical fiction.

But I'm really sorry, I just didn't enjoy Bride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers. It was painful. I felt totally removed throughout the entire 288 pages and when I read an historical novel I want to be drawn in, travelling with the characters, living and breathing the experiences along with them, crying when they're upset, struggling or heartbroken and I didn't feel a thing for this novel at all.

I tried. I really did try and I so wanted to enjoy it, but more often than not I'd find myself reading four or five pages and not taking a word in!

It was a first novel, and it was written by an academic researcher, not a writer, which the author readily admits. As such the descriptions were incredibly vivid. Obviously a result of meticulous research, which has been commented on: "A meticulously researched, lyrical tale... Bride of New France succeeds in bringing history to life" (National Post) but I just wanted more feeling. I wanted the main character Laure to really come into her own.

From the back cover
"Laure Beausejour has grown up in a dormitory in Paris surrounded by prostitutes, the insane, and other forgotten woman. Despite numerous hardships, she dreams of using her needlework skills to beome a seamstress and one day marry a nobleman. But in 1669. Laure's dreams are cruelly dashed when she is sent across the Atlantic to New France as a fill du roi. Powerful and haunting, Bride of New France, is a remarkable tale of a French girl and her struggle to survive in a brutal place and time."

Laure had spark - after all, she survives and given the hardship of the time, only those with incredible inner strength and determination would do so - but I never felt as if her character was really allowed to shine through. It was almost as if the author was too concerned about getting the historical facts correct to give her full attention to her main character.

However, on the plus side, it was a novel like none I had read before - which is always a welcome change. And it certainly opened my eyes to a period of history that I hadn't encountered before. It has also piqued my interest to find out more about this period of Canadian history which isn't a bad thing. And I genuinely admire any new author who has the ability to put pen to paper and craft a novel from such extensive research.

Unfortunately, this just wasn't the book for me. I'd still give it 3 out of 5 stars but it was certainly hard work! 

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