Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Book Gush: 'Promised to the Crown' by Aimie K. Runyan

from the publisher:
In her illuminating debut novel, Aimie K. Runyan masterfully blends fact and fiction to explore the founding of New France through the experiences of three young women who, in 1667, answer Louis XIV’s call and journey to the Canadian colony.

They are known as the filles du roi, or “King’s Daughters”—young women who leave prosperous France for an uncertain future across the Atlantic. Their duty is to marry and bring forth a new generation of loyal citizens. Each prospective bride has her reason for leaving—poverty, family rejection, a broken engagement. Despite their different backgrounds, Rose, Nicole, and Elisabeth all believe that marriage to a stranger is their best, perhaps only, chance of happiness.

Once in Quebec, Elisabeth quickly accepts baker Gilbert Beaumont, who wants a business partner as well as a wife. Nicole, a farmer’s daughter from Rouen, marries a charming officer who promises comfort and security. Scarred by her traumatic past, Rose decides to take holy vows rather than marry. Yet no matter how carefully she chooses, each will be tested by hardship and heartbreaking loss—and sustained by the strength found in their uncommon friendship, and the precarious freedom offered by their new home.

guys guys guys! I loved, loved, loved this book! Loved it!   LOVED IT!   Seriously, loved it.

17th Century: France was a major power who wanted to extend their influence by populating and securing New France.  The King offered young women of various stations a dowry and an opportunity. Called The Filles du Roi these women of breeding age and strong constitution would sail to North America, marry the settlers already colonizing this brave, treacherous land and increase the population for the good of their home country.

The Filles du Roi have always fascinated me as we studied them in school.   Peeling back the curtain on the indubitably harsh and trying circumstances forging a life here in Canada amidst its terrible winters and harsh terrain, my imagination sought out romantic prospects.  It’s not unlike an early form of “The Bachelor.”

These women were marriageable commodities, yes, but also strong.  The women who survived were the ones who grabbed life by the reins and decided to use this strange new opportunity to secure a sense of purpose and happiness. For other women, what better way to escape?

A trio of women and a supporting cast of nuns, lovers, brothers, enemies, townspeople, husbands, populate the exceptionally written Promised to the Crown which is by far my favourite read of 2016 thus far.    Painstaking research, a lyrical tongue and an impressively sure handle on each of the three distinctive narratives as they intertwine and intersect are just a few of the reasons Runyan has weaved such a luscious canvas.

Rose, Elisabeth and  Nicole  forge a lasting friendship. For this is a woman’s space and what better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than with an example of women who were the stronghold and survival of a new populous.   There is a decidedly feminist aspect to a tale that could easily fall into a puddle of straight domesticity. For while women were very much homemakers and baby carriers, they were also the backbone of a culturally and socially developing society.   A favourite thread followed Elisabeth who marries Gilbert, a baker, because he will offer her equal business standing in his enterprise.      

Each woman is fully developed from their treacherous sea passage and the nods over their shoulder as they look behind on the life they leave: sometimes trailing its tragic ramifications with them.  From their earliest days in Quebec: entertaining suitors with pastries and cider to their marriages and growing families, Runyan has developed a woman’s sphere.      

I gobbled this book up: it had funny, strong moments and tragic, painful sighs of moments.   It perfectly adapted a foreign historical experience to a readable, accessible page.   Runyan sets you back centuries so you can smell the crackling hearths and feel the tang of the settling winter.   I cannot remember enjoying a historical experience this acutely … not for a long, long time. 

I really encourage you to expose yourself to a time period in history not often pursued in fiction. Runyan's research make her the perfect authoritative pen to transpose this experience to fiction and you will not be disappointed.   Friendship, romance, hardship and adventure dot each fabulous page! 

Pick this one up!  Amazon

my thanks to Netgalley and Kensington for the review copy 

1 comment:

Kailana said...

Oh! *Adds to wish list*