Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Blighted Troth: A Novel of New France

From the author's journal:
In 1702, Emilie Basseaux lives with her widowed mother in New France. On the eve of her wedding to Robert Lanzille, she catches the eye of the settlement’s unscrupulous overlord, Seigneur Richard Tonnacour who threatens to kill the parish priest if he performs their marriage. This sets off a catastrophic chain of events that turns her life, and that of her betrothed, into a desperate flight for their lives, separating them, and sending them straight into the arms of peril. Emilie and Robert’s plight sweeps them into the convents and taverns, the riots and small-pox epidemics of New France where they each face death and discover the true meaning of love and forgiveness. It is a compelling story of love and treachery, faith and loss, forgiveness and triumph. The Blighted Troth is a retelling of the classic novel, The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi) by Alessandro Manzoni. Inspired by this epic Italian classic novel, the author weaves an entirely new and unqiue captivating tale in a new setting, a new century, and with new plot twists.

I had never heard of this author prior to seeing this listing on LibraryThing's Member giveaways, so I had no expectations going in. It is an easy read. It has a nice glimpse at life in a small Canadian (New France at the time) town, and a bit of a comparision to life in Quebec. We also got to see how the 1702-1703 Smallpox epidemic effected everyone in the colony. I've never really learned or read much about Canadian histoy, except where it tied directly into a American historical event, so this is all new territory for me.

It was a fairly quick read as well. For a 452 page e-book, it only took me approximately four days to get through. Some of this may be due to how the book is set up. It has 142 chapters. A good many of them are one pagers, and in the 2-5 page range. These short chapters, made for a quick pace, though it makes the chapter count sound scary. I'm not sure that it is better than combining some of the small chapters into others, but it may be just me nit-picking about editing-formatting issues.

The characters could probably have been developed a bit more. You get a clear sense of who they are, but I could have used a bit more to get me fully invested in them. The best characters are Pere Jean Civitelle, the parish priest who cares more for saving his own hide than tending to the needs, and Claude Prudhomme, one of the neighboring lords to the one where Emilie and Robert live under. Claude is known as one of the more ruthless overlords in New France, but during the course of the novel and gives up his bad ways. His story would make a really interesting novel, on its on.

Been having trouble putting into words just does and doesn't quite work for me. Its a good diversion, but not great. There's a few really good characters, but the others could use just a bit more to make them really pop. The ending I could see coming from near the middle of the book.

I give this a 3.5-4 star


Avid_Reader said...

Thanks for the review, the novel sounds interesting so I'll keep my eye open for it.

You might also enjoy Suzanne Desrochers' Bride of New France, which is about the filles du roi (the King's Daughters), the young Frenchwomen sent to New France in the 1660s and 1670s in order to build up the population of the colony. I'm going to be reading it soon, although I'm not sure if it available outside of Canada.

Sarah said...

That sounds like a good tie in with this one. One of the characters came over as a filles du roi (which the author never explains what that was, but I was get a general idea of it). Don't see it on the stateside shops, but generally it seems like it takes us a while to get books that are published elsewhere first.