Bride of New France
In 1656 King Louis XIV declared, “We expressly prohibit and forbid all persons of either sex… able-bodied or invalid, sick or convalescent, curable or incurable, to beg in the city and suburbs of Paris.” To that end, Laure Beausejour is torn from her parents’ arms as a young child and raised in an orphanage.
A decade later, Laure still lives in a Parisian institution. She has become one of the country’s most skilled lace-makers and hopes to be noticed by a nobleman in need of a wife. However, when a friend succumbs to scurvy, Laure dares to write to the king to complain about the squalid living conditions. She is punished by being sent to the wilds of Quebec. There she is required to wed a fur trapper, and to do her part to populate French Canada.
In Bride of New France, Suzanne Desrochers explores a heartless method used by some European countries to control urban overpopulation. Criminals, orphans, and the destitute were swept up and sent to the colonies. Most of them were shockingly ill-prepared to live in the wilderness, and Laure Beausejour is no exception.
The novel also depicts the sharply limited choices of women in the 17th century. Despite her intelligence and striking appearance, Laure must make lace for the king or starve. She is dispatched to Quebec to marry the first stranger who wants her. When she finds love with an Iroquois man, it is forbidden. Yet Laure never surrenders to despair in Desrochers’ grim, yet thoroughly enjoyable tale.