From Publishers Weekly
Clark (The Great Stink
) bases her third novel on the true story of the first French settlers in America and the women who are sent to be their wives. Her dual protagonists—the novel begins as two narratives which then converge—are the independent Elisabeth Savaret and the curious youth, Auguste. Elisabeth sets herself apart from her gossipy sister brides-to-be, finding solace in her books, but when she meets her rugged husband, she softens into a devoted wife and hopeful mother. Auguste is assigned the task of learning the ways and language of the savages since alliance with the native population is key to France's position in the New World. Throughout the novel Elisabeth and Auguste experience all the tropes common to life in the colonies. Clark has many graces as a writer, but while she brims with enthusiasm over her novel's world and delights in describing every facet of it, her penchant for overwriting makes what could be a fast-moving romp into a slog. She is an assiduous researcher, but too eager to show it. Still, Clark's passion for her story overcomes and will please lovers of historical fiction. (Feb.)
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Clark’s third engrossing, painstakingly researched historical novel is set in the early 1700s in Louisiana, a colony populated by French settlers and named for Louis XIV. A group of 23 young girls is sent from France to be married there, among them Elisabeth Savaret, who is well educated and skeptical about finding happiness in the New World. Surprisingly, she falls almost obsessively in love with her husband, Jean-Claude, and their childless union becomes the core of the novel. Clark describes this backwater colony in meticulous detail—the mud, the stench, the mosquitoes, the freezing winters and stifling summers, but it is above all a political quagmire, a quicksand of duplicity and shifting alliances, because the French are engaged in fierce competition with the English for this inhabitable land. Clark’s third protagonist, whose life intersects with Elizabeth’s and Jean-Claude’s, is Auguste, a young Frenchman assigned to live with various Native tribes whose alliances will strengthen France’s position against the English. Clark’s vast store of historical and geographical detail enriches the portraits of her three vibrant characters, whose destinies are inextricably, and memorably, bound. --Deborah Donovan