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The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor by Sally…

The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor (2007)

by Sally Armstrong

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Armstrong takes us on an adventure ride through the pioneering life of Charlotte Taylor. The beginning is swashbuckling, excessive perhaps, but as Charlotte arrives in Canada, the tale take a perfect rhythm of adventure, discovery and learning. Armstrong balances a description of the times while pulling from history and teaching readers about the Micmac, Acadians, Loyalists and later settlers, the politics that ensued and the insecurities it created. The hardships and joys are not overly dramatised; the story flows well and all the characters ebb in and out in a fluid fashion while retaining the attention on Taylor.

There a few weaknesses - the sections that Armstrong invented are admittedly the weakest (Jamaica in particular) - too colourful and melodramatic to be taken seriously. She also can't help but infuse a modernist look at the over-development of land and displacement of Native Americans. I'm not sure a settler would have these concerns given the magnitude of the land and the incredibly harsh conditions for survival.

Overall an entertaining and instructive read. ( )
  Cecilturtle | Nov 24, 2013 |
I liked this book. I would have prefered that it be longer and consequently more character development for other people and her family. It's always interesting to read about the early days of Canada and the historical development of our fair country. ( )
  janismack | Dec 23, 2011 |
Sally Armstrong was always fascinated by her great-great-great-great-grandmother. Charlotte Taylor was legendary in their family - running away from England with the family butler, landing in Canada as the only English woman in the Miracmichi, the rumors of her love with a local native man, the many husbands she buried, the twelve children she raised. As she investigated into Charlotte's life, she made some conjectures about where she might have gone and how she lived. Since Charlotte lived in the late 1700s, there wasn't a ton of information. But combining family legend with known information, she has written a wonderful tribute to an amazing lady.

It is published as fiction, but it is, as they say, based on a true story. The Miramichi is in northern New Brunswick, still a generally wildish type area, based on my own prejudices and stereotypes. Armstrong writes a fascinating story, showing the reader what life was like for the early settlers in Canada. Not easy to be a woman, but Charlotte was the type of woman who thrived in a pioneer setting. She was able to make decisions that helped her (the men to marry) and then pick up herself was bad things happened (she buried several husbands.) Through it all, she was determined to own her land and defend her family. She maintained friendships with the Mi'kmaq, and Armstrong shows the poor treatment the natives received.

For those interested in historical fiction- a Canadian view of the deportation of the Acadians, the settlement by the English and the Loyalists from the States (the American Revolution crept into Canada since the British were still ruling here), the treatment of the Mi'kmaq, this is a great book. Besides this broad view, the specific life of Charlotte Taylor was remarkable, as one woman living in the wilds of New Brunswick maintained her family and built a legacy. ( )
  raidergirl3 | Dec 19, 2009 |
This was an interesting book. I learned a great deal about the Miramichi and enjoyed the story of this amazing tough lady. ( )
  arowe | Sep 28, 2008 |
Sally Armstrong has done a great job in bringing Charlotte to life. Whether or not it is exactly correct is really not important, the reader gets to understand what a courageous, stubborn and interesting woman Charlotte was, as well as some history of the Miramichi area of New Brunswich in the last 18th - early 19th centuries. ( )
  kelli413 | Jul 21, 2007 |
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For Sigrid Anna Stephenson Taylor. Intrepid, incorrigible, intelligent-like Charlotte.
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Like an unfinished symphony, her story played on my mind for most of my life.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679314059, Paperback)

Charlotte Taylor lived in the front row of history. In 1775, at the young age of twenty, she fled her English country house and boarded a ship to Jamaica with her lover, the family’s black butler. Soon after reaching shore, Charlotte’s lover died of yellow fever, leaving her alone and pregnant in Jamaica. In the sixty-six years that followed, she would find refuge with the Mi’kmaq of what is present-day New Brunswick, have three husbands, nine more children and a lifelong relationship with an aboriginal man. Using a seamless blend of fact and fiction, Charlotte Taylor's great-great-great-granddaughter, Sally Armstrong, reclaims the life of a dauntless and unusual woman and delivers living history with all the drama and sweep of a novel.

Excerpt from from The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor:

“Every summer of my youth, we would travel from the family cottage at Youghall Beach to visit my mother’s extended clan in Tabusintac near the Miramichi River. And at every gathering, just as much as there would be chickens to chase and newly cut hay to leap in, so there would be an ample serving of stories about Charlotte Taylor. . .

She was a woman with a “past.” The potboilers about her ran like serials from summer to summer, at weddings and funerals and whenever the clan came together. She wasn’t exactly presented as a gentlewoman, although it was said that she came from an aristocratic family in England. Nor was there much that seemed genteel about the person they always referred to as “old Charlotte.” Words like “lover” and “land grabber” drifted down from the supper table to where we kids sat on the floor. There were whoops of laughter at her indiscretions, followed by sideways glances at us. But for all the stories passed around, it was clear the family still had a powerful respect for a woman long dead. We owed our very existence to her, and the anecdotes the older generation told suggested that their own fortitude and guile were family traits passed down from the ancestral matriarch. For as long as I can remember, I’ve tried to imagine the real life Charlotte Taylor lived and, more, how she ever survived.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:26 -0400)

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