Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review of ''Three Came to Ville Marie''

Next on the list, Three Came to Ville Marie by Alan Sullivan, winner of the 1941 Governor-General's Award for fiction.

Three Came to Ville Marie is set during the reign of Louis XIV. The novel opens in France, but the three main characters all end up in New France (as the title indicates). The titular 3 spend most of the novel as a sort of love triangle. In the beginning of the book, Paul and Jacqueline are going to be married. They both supposedly love each other, but their relationship seems unromantic (but safe) at best. However, their fates change rapidly when Paul's childhood friend, the dashing captain Jules, shows up. Unsurprisingly, Jacqueline is smitten, and she quickly brushes off Paul to marry Jules.

I won't go too much further into the plot, as generally speaking, it's fairly formulaic. There are no real surprises (shock, Jacqueline comes to regret choosing Jules over Paul). Stylistically, it's a good novel. Sullivan has an engaging, yet descriptive style. And, the historical details, particularly Sullivan's depiction of various historical personnages (most notably Frontenac) is quite interesting. It's also hard to get a read on Paul's virulent racism. Eventually, he becomes an Iroquois killing machine, while refusing to kill any Europeans. It is disturbing to say the least.

I would say that overall, Three Came to Ville Marie is an enjoyable summer read, but I'm a bit surprised that it won a literary award. Perhaps good Canadian fiction was hard to come by during the war?

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