Friday, August 17, 2012

2012 Book 20: The Plains of Abraham

Whenever I visit my parents, they load me up with books to read. Last summer I came home with a big stack. Being pregnant at the time and then becoming a new mom has not provided ample opportunity to read. Most of my books these days come in the form of a digital publication on my Kindle. However I find that I still enjoy picking up an old, well-worn book and diving into the musty pages.

The Plains of Abraham by James Oliver Curwood has sat on my shelf of over a year. The cover is unassuming and I had kind of forgotten about it. When my parents visited a couple of weeks ago, my dad saw that I had started it and let me know that 1) it was based on a true story {historical fiction is one of my favorite genres} and 2) there was a good twist at the end. His comments were enough for me to devour the book over the course of several days.

I am so glad I finished this book. It is amazing that the story really happened and the twist at the end took me by surprise. 

The story is about French settlers who lived in Canada at the time of a pivotal French-English war that determined the course of the history of North America. The Plains of Abraham is a real place in Quebec where a bloody battle was fought. It also has significance to the family that the story is about. The story also delves into the roll that the Indian nations played and how the more "civilized" nations encouraged scalping. Really some interesting food for thought.

I also identified with the book in that my mom is Canadian {she now has her American citizenship} and my dad is American. The main character has a father who is French and a mother who is British.

I truly enjoyed this book. I only wish that I had found the time to read it sooner. Never underestimate an unassuming cover of a book!

Excerpts from the book:
To the boy and the dog this timbered country... was a silent and mysterious realm of adventure, a place filled with whispers of mighty things to happen... To the man and woman it was different, for to them, with their experience and understanding, the beauty and greatness of God in nature had never grown common or old...

"Let the war come if it must... But why talk of war, Brother, when there is peace and plenty and a beautiful world about us to enjoy? Let kings fight or play, just as they will, but as for me, should fighting chance to come – why, I shall be a friend to both sides and strike at neither. For no matter what cause should bring about the strife, I could not strike at the people of my Catherine's blood, nor would she have me turn against my own. So why move from here? This is a glorious place. It is neutral ground, and we, being neutral, are fitly placed here. Oneidas and Mohawks have eaten under our roof as well as Hurons and Algonquins, and when deadly enemies such as these meet thus on common ground, what cause have we for fear?" – Henri

Catherine had taught him {Jeems} that all things had souls and language, even flowers and tress and the birds and beasts they slew for food, and that while destruction of life for the achievement of necessities was neither wrong nor to be condemned, wanton destruction was a sin which only God Himself could forgive. 

...mothers dread the day when childhood draws itself away, like a beautiful shadow, to be replaced by the sterner form of maturity in her offspring.

...we began hating the French and the French began hating us; and then we set the Indians to hating our enemies and our enemies did the same; and after that, not being content with the devlitry we'd done, we started the Indians to hating among themselves. We did that, lad, we white descendents o' the Son o' God, with our greater wisdom, our whisky, our guns and lies, until... there isn't a tribe that doesn't hate another tribe, and all because we hate the French and the French hate us...

...down in the Colonies, some of us are getting tired of a game so bloody and vile and are beginning to call ourselves Americans. It's a new and wholesome name, Jeems, and one that is bound to grow. And for a like reason, because the shortcomings of a parent sometimes give birth to pride in a child, a lot of the people of your father's race are beginning to call themselves Canadians...

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