This national bestseller from Canadian author Suzanne Desrochers is a fine debut novel. It is historically well drawn; stylish in its easy, dreamy prose, and steeped in enough realism of the New World of Upper Canada to draw the international reader to delve deeper into the history of a young nation. For the Telegraph Journal to claim that “Bride of France is the best piece of historical fiction I’ve read in a long time.” makes this reviewer question the depth of historical novels that jacket reviewer has indulged in, yet I acknowledge this is more a personal distaste for glaring “soundbites” that publishers use to snare the reader.
Still, this is a debut that speaks for itself.
The story follows Laure Beausejour, a young orphaned seamstress who is taken from the laceworks of Salpetriere across the troublesome Atlantic on the ship Saint-Jean-Baptiste to an enforced colonial destiny as the wife of an adventurer seeking fame, place and fortune in the Canadian wilderness. Whilst Laure might solace her friend Madeleine with a description of a “frozen heaven”, the bitter truth is brought home soon after landing at the shore of Quebec City and her subsequent travels to Ville-Marie. Coupled with her travels Desrochers takes her anti-heroine on a personal voyage of self-discovery, of survival and determination. From her idealistic notions of helping her friends with a letter to the King of France to her marriage to Mathurin and illicit liaison and child with a “Savage”, Deskaheh, Laure walks a path that is not quite tinged with reality. She is an eternal optimist, able to emotionally able to distance herself; yet, as a reader we struggle to connect wholly with her. We empathize but never sympathize. We get to feel little of the harsh reality of life in Canada for these filles du roi; we become aware of her naivete. She is a woman who exudes a misunderstanding that her position is not what she thought it would be, yet never comes to terms with it.
It is a quality debut from Canadian author Suzanne Desrochers. It is a well sketched portrait of a forgotten event in New France’s history, yet lacks the depth of a true master. As a reviewer I wanted to feel something for the heroine, taste and smell the opportunity and brutal harshness of Canada but my palate found little beyond the first viewing. It is, as the Winnipeg Press says “a beautiful piece of historical fiction” but I feel the author’s next effort should be so much more than that.
Categories: Suzanne Desrochers