Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The King's Daughter

The King's Daughter

Suzanne Martel
Historical FIction
For ages 12 and up
Groundwood Books, 1998   ISBN: 978-0888992185

Jeanne Chatel is a French girl who, after the death of her grandfather (her only living relative), was sent to an orphanage run by nuns. Jeanne always had a hard time adjusting to the ways of the convent. Strong-willed, very clever, and unwilling to accept orders from others, Jeanne was a trial to the sisters for many years.

   Now Jeanne is a young woman and she has been asked if is willing to immigrate to “New France,” the land that lies in the northern territories of North America. Young women who take on this “vocation” to help settle the new lands across the ocean are called “The King’s Daughters,” as the king of France himself gives them away in marriage to settlers in New France. In a sense Jeanne has been a ward of the king ever since she joined the convent when she was only ten years old.

   So, Jeanne, delighted to be leaving life at the convent behind her, sets off on an adventure unlike any other. She is not even daunted by the prospect of marrying a complete stranger, possibly a rough woodsman who will expect her to live in the wilderness.

   As is happens, this is just the kind of man Jeanne ends up marrying. A widower with two small children, Monsieur Simon de Rouville lives far from any settlement and makes his living by being a trapper and fort builder. Still grieving for the wife he lost to a group of marauding Indians, Simon is not the loving knight on a white horse whom Jeanne dreamed of having for a husband. Nevertheless, with a will and determination that is quite extraordinary, she takes on the considerable job of caring for Simon, his children, and his little cabin.

    This fascinating book tells the reader about a very curious practice that existed in France in the late 1600’s. It is hard to imagine anyone agreeing to marry a stranger in another country, and yet apparentlyCanadawas settled by quite a few of the “King’s Daughters.” With fascinating descriptions of frontier life and customs, Suzanne Martel has created a book which will intrigue all kinds of readers. Written from Jeanne’s point of view, we get a very close-up and personal picture of her life, and become very fond of this courageous young woman who became a frontier wife and mother, healer, and fighter. Jeanne even disguised herself as a man on one occasion.