Summary: Jeanne Chatel is an orphan taken in by nuns after her grandfather dies. Not suited for a life in the church, Jeanne is thrilled when she is accepted as a King’s Daughter to go across the ocean and marry a settler in New France. When she gets there, she takes the place of her friend Marie in an arranged marriage to Marie’s cousin after his first wife dies. Suddenly Jeanne is living in the wilds of the Canadian bush with two kids, discovering that a King’s Daughter is capable of more things than she ever dreamed.
Number of Pages: 211
Age Range: 13-15
Review: Jeanne is a incredibly spirited heroine with a kind and open heart. Sent to New France for the sole purpose of getting married, Jeanne marries her friend Marie’s intended husband after Marie falls in love on the ship to the new world. Simon de Rouville, Jeanne’s new husband, has two children by his previous wife who died with their baby in an Indian attack.
The title of King’s Daughter gives Jeanne confidence when she needs it, helping her face Canadian winters and survive with creativity and determination. Her husband is aloof at first and Jeanne worries he still misses his dead wife, but they fall in love and are able to create a happy life for themselves.
Living as we do in a world where everything has been discovered, I love pioneer stories because they show me what it was like to be one of those people discovering and living in a new world. The aspect of The King’s Daughter about the role of women, married and unmarried, is particularly fascinating, especially when Jeanne dresses up as a boy to help her husband.
Despite being relegated to the role of housewife on the frontier, Jeanne becomes a mother, a healer, and a good friend to many other settlers. She carves a life for herself outside the expectations she encounters, and gradually changes her husband’s opinion of women as well. Very gradually.
I enjoyed reading about Jeanne and how she faced the hardships she encountered, but I found it quite convenient that Jeanne didn’t get pregnant until years into her marriage to Simon. After reading about the woman who had child after child until it was sure to kill her in Esther by Sharon E. McKay (another early settler story), I wondered how Jeanne was able to avoid getting pregnant while she established herself as a healer and strengthened her relationship with her husband.
That point aside, I can easily see why this book is part of some school curriculums in Quebec. It’s a great adventure story for early to mid teens with an inspiring female character who isn’t afraid to be herself.
“‘I’m not very adept at prayer,’ admitted Jeanne frankly.
‘You’re a good girl. You’ll help others: that will be your way of praying. Some people’s devotion is more useful that other’s. You will be one of those.'” – conversation between Jeanne and Sister Bourgeoys from The King’s Daughter by Suzanne Martel, page 33
“Widow Myrand, surly and not at all pleasant, showed her guests to rooms as small and overcrowded as those on the ship they had just left. No one complained. A spirit of self denial was essential baggage for those who came to colonize the new world.” – from The King’s Daughter by Suzanne Martel, page 41
“As Pierre Boucher said in his book on Canada, ‘The winter, though the ground is covered with snow and the cold a bit harsh, is not always unpleasant. It’s a cheerful cold.'” – from The King’s Daughter by Suzanne Martel, page 132
“All at once, the truth came clear to her.
A wife accompanied by her husband was not a real person, but just a pale reflection, a creature without substance who existed only because someone had given her his name. For these rough men, a woman anywhere else but in her house was a burden, an unnecessary risk, an inevitable responsibility.” – from The King’s Daughter by Suzanne Martel, page 165
“Jeanne was surprised how unmarried women like Marguerite Bourgeoys and Jeanne Mance had succeeded in asserting themselves through their personal value, whereas married women seemed eternally destined to live in the shadow of their worthy husbands.” – from The King’s Daughter by Suzanne Martel, page 168