A heartfelt novel about a 17th-century young woman’s journey from Paris to the Canadian wilds.
As a young girl, Laure is torn from her parents’ arms on the streets of 17th-century Paris–destined for the Salpêtrière, a notorious institution housing destitute, insane and criminal women. She grows up with minuscule rations, sickness and tragedy, dreaming of becoming a seamstress and marrying to improve her station. Instead, she finds herself on a ship bound for the colonies of New France in Canada, as a fille du roi (“daughter of the King”)–not an opportunity but the worst of punishments.
Laure’s new life is in some ways worse than she’d imagined. She is to serve as wife to a fur trapper or soldier, doing her part to increase the population of New France, but learning how to make fine lace has left her unprepared to chop wood or defend herself in an uncivilized world of deadly cold winters, wild animals and savages. Her ill-suited husband immediately leaves her alone in a rough-hewn cabin to fend for herself, and she must turn to one of the feared Iroquois for her survival.
Suzanne Desrochers’s well-researched debut novel captures Laure’s challenges and complexities admirably, with a candid account of an era that is often glorified. The settings of squalid Paris and feral New France are well evoked, and Laure’s emotions and frustrations are easily understood. Though flawed, she is a fully human character; the future that she and her counterparts face is bleak, but hopeful as well.