The Orenda

Joseph Boyden. Penguin Canada/Hamish Hamilton. Knopf (Penguin, Canadian dist.; Random House, U.S. dist.), $32 (496p) ISBN 978-0-670-06418-2
Epic in scope, exquisite in execution, Boyden’s spellbinding third novel tells the story of the French conquest of Canada from the point of view of both the conquerors and the conquered. Boyden, winner of the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Through Black Spruce, here divides his story between three narrators, two of them aboriginal, the third a French Jesuit missionary based loosely on Jean de Brebeuf, recognized as a saint following his martyrdom at the hands of the Iroquois. Set in the early 1600s, as the French were exploring today’s Canadian province of Ontario, Boyden’s narrative depicts in compelling detail how the French exploited ancient enmities between the Iroquois and Huron tribes to speed their conquest of New France. The novel abounds in riveting battle scenes and stomach-turning physical torture, but it shines most brightly in quieter passages that root the reader firmly in daily life in a tribal village where the spectre of famine and enemy attack compete with rich family life and a powerful spiritual attachment to the land. This is a long novel, and some readers may balk at the graphic torture sequences, but those who stay the course will be rewarded with a fascinating glimpse of what it felt like to live at the sharp end of the spear of European conquest. Agent: Eric Simonoff (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/21/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-385-35074-7
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-345-80645-1
Ebook - 277 pages - 978-1-78074-436-0
Hardcover - 433 pages - 978-0-385-35073-0
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