cover image Savage Lands

Savage Lands

Clare Clark, . . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25 (406pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101473-6

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.)