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Maria Chapdelaine by Louis Hémon

Maria Chapdelaine (1913)

by Louis Hémon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (4)  French (1)  All languages (5)
Showing 4 of 4
Maria Chapdelaine is the story of a girl's coming of age in the depths of the Quebec wilderness. Life is hard there, but Maria and her family get by. She has three suitors, each of whom is very different. Eutrope Gagnon is her neighbor and promises her a life much like the one she has now, Francois Paradis is an adventurous trapper who grew up nearby but doesn't have the patience for the farm, and finally, Lorenzo Surprenant is the nephew of a neighbor who has emigrated to the United States where he makes good money in a factory and can promise her a much easier and luxurious life than the others. Who will she choose?

A celebration of French Canadian culture and highly recommended for those with an interest in good literature in general or in novels about pioneer living in the early twentieth century. ( )
  inge87 | May 31, 2017 |
I loved this book. I am not capable of reading it in the original French, so I can't know how the Canadian English of an earlier century compares with the French written by Monsieur Hémon, but I can say that the English is highly readable. It is poetic without being burdensome, telling a sparse world with richness of observed detail. The people are understated, but that is not just a literary device, it is a reflection of their response to the life they lived. Beautiful, transporting, at times worrying as we see pur protagonist struggle with her plight. There were two pages in the whole book I could have cut down or dispensed with, but that is because I live today, with the last century's review on matters of life, and because I have never lived the way Maria Chapdelaine did. So I accept them and I am truly delighted that I stumbled across this hidden Canadian classic. ( )
1 vote thesmellofbooks | Apr 7, 2017 |
I read a different French edition, but close enough. An allegory of sorts. Pastoral. Roughly idyllic or idealized version of French Canadian "frontier" life around the turn of the last century. I did enjoy the colloquialisms, such as the French-speaking Canadians referring to themselves as les Canadiens and les habitants (tr. as inhabitants, those who live in this place), whereas the English-Speaking Canadians are labeled les Anglais, les Russes, les Italiens, etc. One of the dominant themes is the Christian struggle between good and evil, dark and light, here embodied in the antagonism between primeval forest and farm. Slaying the forest as quickly and completely as possible, both by logging the Old Growth and by hacking fields out of the forests is portrayed as a religious duty, the bringing of the Word to the wilderness, civilization to barbaric nature (one that shows no particular use for man). This brings to mind what Americans often think of as the Puritan view of the wilderness. Apparently, a view also shared by the pious Canadian Catholics. Their world view is fatalistic. God has his mysterious purposes, not to be questioned by humans. One must bend to his will. And in return, nature must bend to the will of man. What we think of as the Puritan work ethic manifests itself here as the work ethic of the Catholic peasant. A man proposes to a woman by claiming to be a hard worker and never drinking a drop. Certainly, a drinking man would make a miserable life for a woman, true everywhere, but even more true in the hard circumstances of the northern homestead. Everyone here must be able to get up at the crack of dawn and labor hard till dark, just to survive. A drinking man would mean an impoverished family. A woman married to such a man would live a miserable existence in an environment where the best situation is already a tough one. This is also an unquestionably patriarchal world. A woman marries a man's decisions as well as the man himself. If he, like Samuel, Maria's father, is never a settler, must always move on once a farm has been cleared and is ready to become part of a settled community, then his wife has no choice but to move with him. She can be happy or not about it, but the decision is his to make, not hers. In other respects, putting aside the gender-based division of labor, such a life is a partnership. Also, as indicated by Maria's consideration of her 3 suitors, a woman marries not only a man, but a way of life and a place, the land. In the final instance, when faced with choosing between Lorenzo Surprenant (tr. Surprising) who would take her away to city life in the United States and Eutrope Gagnon (perhaps from the verb gagner, to earn or to win), her closest neighbor, which would mean a life exactly like the one her mother had with her father (her mother, prematurely dead of a mysterious malady), chooses to stay(after having been spoken to by the voice of the land & the voice of duty). She might have faced a somewhat different life if her first fiance, François Paradis (tr. obviously as paradise) hadn't died of exposure in the winter en route to visit her for the New Year. He was an adventurer, a guide to buyers of pelts from the Indians and a lumberman, not a farmer. The lesson intended, perhaps, is that paradise is meant not for daily life but only for the afterlife.
( )
2 vote Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
405. Maria Chapdelaine: A Tale of the Lake St. John Country, by Louis Hemon (read 5 Jan 1952) When I read this book I said of it: "This was written by a Frenchman who spent the last years of his life in Canada before his death in 1913. The book brought him fame when it was published in 1920. It is a thing of pure and tragic beauty, quite unexceled by any recent reading of mine. Maria loves a man but he dies in the forest. She agrees to marry a neighbor rather than go to the U.S., despite the hardness of frontier life in the cold North. So much I feel so deeply found expression in this tale replete with accounts of cold winter and praise, implied, of the hard life. ( )
2 vote Schmerguls | Jan 9, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (40 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hémon, Louisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pagé, PierreIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Premsela, Martin J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0887766978, Hardcover)

Nominated for the Governor General's Literary Awards 2005, (Children's Literature, Illustration)

As a work of art, as an insight into history, and as a moving story of survival in the midst of pitiless nature, Maria Chapdelaine has cast its spell over millions of readers around the world. At least 230 different editions have been published in twenty-three countries since it first appeared in 1916.

Maria lives with her family near Peribonka in Quebec, a snowy, harsh world where work is hard and pleasures are few. She has three suitors from whom to choose, but in the end, her destiny is hers. After her mother dies, she takes up the family duties and stays with her younger siblings to care for them.

Ever since it was published, Maria Chapdelaine was controversial. Was Maria right to submit to fate?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

After her chosen suitor dies tragically, Maria must choose between two men : one who will take her to a fascinating new life, and one who will stay close to the land she knows and to her roots.

» see all 2 descriptions

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2 editions of this book were published by Dundurn.

Editions: 1894908031, 1550027123

Tundra Books

2 editions of this book were published by Tundra Books.

Editions: 0887766978, 0887762395

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