After the King rules that the streets of Paris will be emptied of beggars, Laure Beausejour is found on the streets with her poor parents. She is taken away from them and brought to the Enfant-Jésus dormitory at the Salpêtrière Hospital to be raised. The Salpêtrière Hospital is the dumping ground for any orphans, women who are mentally or physically ill and too poor and unlucky enough to have nowhere else to go.
Laure stays in the Enfant-Jésus dormitory until she is 10, when a rich woman comes looking for a servant girl. Madame D’Aulnay takes Laure in and treats her like a daughter, even teaching her how to read. When Madame D’Aulnay dies, Laure must return to the Salpêtrière Hospital. This time she is a little luckier- she is placed in the Sainte Claire dormitory where the girls are taught to make beautiful lace and can expect a job in a milliner’s shop when they are older if they behave and work hard.
Instead, Laure and her best friend are sent on a ship to New France as Filles du Roi, to help populate the new country by marrying one of the rough traders already living there.
I went to French Immersion in grades 7 and 8 and Quebec’s history was heavily focused on in history and social studies. Of course, the history that was taught was a highly sanitized and glamorized version of events- where the Filles du Roi were rich girls from France who chose to come to the new country because it was such a wonderful opportunity. Not in this book (and probably not in real life either!). Laure has a very long and tough journey by boat- rough waters, sickness and poor food and the hardships don’t end when they reach land.
This book was very dramatic and very powerful- Laure is such a strong character and goes through so many trials. I really loved Suzanne Desrochers writing- her bio says she grew up in a French-Canadian village and her passion and knowledge for that culture comes through in her writing. I give this book a 5/5 and would definitely recommend it.