Promises to Keep / Genevieve Graham
Toronto: Simon & Schuster, c2017.
The expulsion of the Acadians is perhaps best known through Longfellow's Evangeline. But Genevieve Graham takes on this historical event in a much more readable historical romance (even if Evangeline and Gabriel do crop up in passing...)
It's 1755, and Amélie Belliveau is living with her family on an idyllic Acadian homestead. Her large family is content and well-fed, and a respected part of their community. But into that settled life comes the British army. And they start exiling Acadians, so as to take their fertile lands and comfortable settlements.
All French speaking Acadians are considered enemy French, and are packed into the holds of British ships as prisoners, with no efforts made to keep families together. These ships all head off to various ports where they intend to drop all these unwilling refugees, some of whom (as told in Evangeline) never saw one another again.
But Amélie has a secret benefactor, a Scottish soldier in the English army. He tries, to the best of his ability, to at least make sure that her family is together on the ships. And he plays a bigger role once they are at sea.
The journey of Amélie's family is circuitous and dangerous; she loses many members of her family to illness as the months progress. But she also finds people who are kind and who guide her back to her brothers and Mi'kmaq friends who had been French resisters in Acadia, and had shifted west to what is now Quebec. And there she finds a home again.
The book moves between viewpoints -- Amélie, Connor the Scottish soldier, Me'tekw of the Mi'kmaq, and others. The first half, focused on Acadia and the daily life of the people who will soon lose it, is a little bit slower moving, but the action really picks up in the second half as their forced travels begin. The romance is also a key part of the story, as it shapes the events around Amélie's experience of the expulsion.
This was an easy reading historical drama that should appeal to those who enjoy tales of the past -- especially those that make Canadian history exciting and romantic. The author has another book inspired by Canadian history, Tides of Honour, set at the time of the Halifax Explosion, so if you like sweeping romantic historicals try either one.