Suzanne Desrochers

Suzanne Desrochers, scholar, travel writer, novelist (born at Lafontaine, Ont 1976). Suzanne Desrochers is based in Toronto, but has lived in Paris, Tokyo, and travelled throughout Asia, publishing travel articles in Toronto's Now magazine. Desrochers' FRANCO-ONTARIAN cultural background, and history studies at YORK UNIVERSITY, led to an MA thesis on NEW FRANCE's early women settlers, the FILLES DU ROI, which forms the historical background and inspiration for her first novel, Bride of New France. A researcher at King's College in London, England, she compares the migration of women from France and England to North America in the 17th century. Bride of New France was on the GLOBE AND MAIL and the Canadian Booksellers' bestseller lists for several months.

Bride of New France (2011) imagines the lives of the Filles du Roi, and their role in our Canadian story, through the voice and experience of a young woman, Laure Beausejour. By prefacing the story with a quotation from Leonard COHEN's Let us Compare Mythologies the author shows her intention to challenge earlier, formal and romantic portrayals of the "Brides of New France." The novel is divided into four parts, each representing a period in Laure's life. In this way Desrochers defines the Filles du Roi; outlines their necessity to Louis XIV's plans for empire; describes the dangers and sufferings faced by women city dwellers travelling across the ocean; and speculates on how Laure and the women of the colony of VILLE-MARIE (later, Montreal) face the uncertainties of marrying a stranger, and the fears, hardships and loneliness of life in an unknown wilderness.

Desrochers explores themes of loyalty and loss, fear and abandonment, and physical and emotional courage. Through Laure's eyes the author presents the lives of the children and women, living on the fringes of Parisian society, who would become the Filles du Roi. At age 5, after bring kidnapped from her parents, Laure is delivered to the Salpêtrière, a poorhouse peopled by the abandoned and homeless. Laure suffers the dangers and deaths of the ocean voyage. Her early days in New France are a shock: there is little time to adjust to the huge wilderness, fear of "les sauvages," her brutish husband, and the terrible cold and isolation of her first rural WINTER. By the smallest of increments Laure attains an understanding of her desire for personal freedom, her need to have some control over her own life. For this she pays a great price. Yet as she starts on her return journey to Ville-Marie, fears of the unknown give way to the possibilities of a different life. Suzanne Desrochers is a powerful storyteller: her visceral descriptions of both internal and external landscapes are believable and engaging. The novel is subtly infused with the historical realities and details of everyday life of 17th century imperial France and colonial New France.

Desrochers plans, in future projects, to explore other areas of QUEBEC experience and mythology that are not well known in the rest of Canada: seventeenth century MONTREAL; the LACHINE massacre and the reprisals against the IROQUOIS that followed; and the life of recluse Jeanne LeBer.