Le Québécois: The Virgin Forest
A Book Review by Juliana L’Heureux
In a newly published book, “Le Québécois: The Virgin Forest”, one Franco-American writer tells about her family's place in colonial French history. In her first novel, Biddeford native and writer Doris Provencher-Foucher combines her love of teaching with a passion for the Franco-American culture.
Faucher wanted to write her fiction story, based on a true family story, in her native French language. Instead, her first of four books about Francos is written in English, the language her children understand.
“The more I discovered about Franco-American ethnic history, the more I realized how little our children have an opportunity to learn what I was uncovering, unless I told them the story in English, “ she writes.
“My husband and I were raised speaking French and English in Biddeford,” says Faucher. “Our ability to speak French greatly enhanced our experience living in France when my husband worked for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)”.
Faucher became curious about her family's French-Canadian origins and her colonial ancestors while living in France while her husband worked at NATO. “It wasn't until I retired from teaching in the Biddeford school system, after our four children left our nest and married, that I had the time and inclination to pursue my interest in my Franco-American genealogical research”, she says.
Eventually, Faucher’s research turned into a desire to write a novel depicting the life of all the early French-Canadian settlers into the St. Lawrence River Valley of Quebec. “The Virgin Forest” is a remarkable history and story of the St. Lawrence River Valley written in the English language
Faucher’s story tells about a French peasant couple who left feudal France at a time in history when sailing the Atlantic Ocean was extremely treacherous and the North American continent was blanketed by danger filled thick virgin forests.
Before writing her novel, Faucher thoroughly researched historic accounts about the lives of her colonial Quebec ancestors and the harsh environment where they lived. “Canadian winters were longer and colder during the 17th century when my family lived in Quebec,” says Faucher. “This cold weather was influenced by a prolonged sun spot called the “Maunder Minimum” which lasted from 1645-1715. Scientists link the 70 year sun spot phenomenon to a general cooling of the earth's weather,” she writes.
Faucher’s background as a teacher is quite evident as she leads the reader through the evolution of the French fact in North America like a trained guide mapping out the forest for strangers. Beginning with the early emigration from France in 1647, she describes the motivation experienced by the first settlers who left the security of France to seek a new life in the rugged and largely uncharted North American continent.
Combining fact with fiction is one charming and effective way of teaching Franco-American history, something like the technique used by the Maine writer Henry Wadsworth Longellow when he wrote about the tragic deportation of French Acadians in 1755, from Nova Scotia, in the heroic myth of Evangeline.
Contributing to the accuracy of Faucher’s novel are a small collection of maps and sketches she adds in the book's appendix.
Le Québécois: The Virgin Forest was written by Doris Provencher-Foucher and published by Artenay Press, 2000. ISBN: 0967911230
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Review published on October 5, 2000.
Copyright 1994-2000, Portland Press Herald, Portland, Maine and Juliana L'Heureux