CanLit Challenge Book #36: Antoinette de Mirecourt by Rosanna Leprohon
Filed under: Book Reviews,CanLit Challenge — Ibis at 10:46 am on Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book 36, Antoinette de Mirecourt (1864) – Rosanna Leprohon
From the back cover:
“Originally published in English in 1864, yet acknowledged by French-Canada as a classic of its literature, Antoinette de Mirecourt occupies a singular position in the literature of Canada. This unique product of Quebec’s bilingualism and biculturalism tells an intriguing story of love and French-English social conflict in the years following the Conquest of 1760. Major and minor characters come alive against vividly drawn scenes of Montreal and its vicinity during that period. Sharp, witty dialogue and lyric descriptions of the city and its seasons are woven into a novel that possesses a depth and texture rare in the early literature of Canada.”

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia entry for Rosanna Leprohon

My thoughts:
I’d been looking forward to reading this for a long while. Until I started my CanLit Challenge, I’d never even heard of Rosanna Leprohon, though she was one of the most popular Canadian novelists of the nineteenth century and is still much admired in translation in Quebec. In fact, she is very well known for being one of the first Canadians to advocate a homegrown literature:

Although the literary treasures of ‘the old world’ are ever open to us, and our American neighbors should continue to inundate the country with reading-matter, intended to meet all wants and suit all tastes and sympathies, at prices which enable every one to partake of this never-failing and ever-varying feast; yet Canadians should not be discouraged from endeavoring to form and foster a literature of their own.

I was very keen to find out how she compared to other female novelists of the time with which I am much more familiar, such as Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot. I was also interested to see how much of a relationship I might see between Leprohon and those Canadian female contemporaries who were writing non-fiction, especially Susanna Moodie.

Funnily enough, when I read it, it seemed like Leprohon was rather a throwback to the century previous, the tone reminding me more of Emily Montague or Vicar of Wakefield than anything post-Austen. But perhaps that was some intentional anachronism since the story itself took place in the eighteenth century. Like a typical eighteenth century novel, this one was full of melodrama and secrets (though in this case the reader is in on it) and featured a pathetic, virtuous heroine in Antoinette. The other characters are also well-drawn (though it’s a little hard sometimes to figure out exactly why the villain is so cruel—other than mere sociopathy). I particularly enjoyed the distinctly Canadian touches (French/English tensions, wintery sleigh rides, and nice descriptions of the weather & seasons).

I’m very much looking forward to reading more from Ms. Leprohon.

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