It is 1704 and, while the Sun King Louis XIV rules France from the splendor of Versailles, Louisiana, the new and vast colony named in his honor, is home to fewer than two hundred souls. When a demand is sent requesting wives be dispatched for the struggling settlers, Elisabeth is among the twenty-three girls who set sail from France to be married to men of whom they know absolutely nothing. Educated and skeptical, Elisabeth has little hope for happiness in her new life. It is to her astonishment that she, alone among the brides, finds herself passionately in love with her new husband, Jean-Claude, a charismatic and ruthlessly ambitious soldier.
Auguste, a poor cabin boy from Rochefort, must also adjust to a startlingly unexpected future. Abandoned in a remote native village, he is charged by the colony's governor with mastering the tribe's strange language while reporting back on their activities. It is there that he is befriended by Elisabeth's husband as he begins the slow process of assimilation back into life among the French.
The love Elisabeth and Auguste share for Jean-Claude changes both of their lives irrevocably. When in time he betrays them both, they find themselves bound together in ways they never anticipated.
With the same compelling prose and vividly realized characters that won her widespread acclaim for The Great Stink and The Nature of Monsters, Clare Clark takes us deep into the heart of colonial French Louisiana.
"Clarks vast store of historical and geographical detail enriches the portraits of her three vibrant characters, whose destinies are inextricably, and memorably, bound." - Booklist
"She is an assiduous researcher, but too eager to show it. Still, Clark's passion for her story overcomes and will please lovers of historical fiction." - Publishers Weekly
"Readers of Clark's earlier novels will enjoy this; it should also appeal to those interested in women's, French, New Orleans, or colonial-period history and in Native Americans." - Library Journal
"Although finely textured, this oblique, murkily downbeat tale often loses its thrust in the details." - Kirkus Reviews
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Rated of 5
About My Family
I had never read anything by Clare Clark, I picked this book up at the library last week. I started to read and found out that it was about the Casket Girls that came over on the Pelican. I read with great interest because I am a decedent as many say that are from this area. It was a very good story I could visualize the area at that time. My family settled in South Mississippi early in the 1700's and many decedents remain there still.
Not until the end of the book and in the authors notes did I see what I was looking for.. She said that she used two of the women from the Pelican as her character Elizabeth. One of them the spelling is actually Gebrielle Savary not Gabrielle Savaret, this woman was my ancestor, she married Jean Baptist Saucier from Quebec in Mobile in 1704, she was the great grandmother to Mary Louise Saucier who married Ramon Lizana who was the first Lizana in the Gulf Coast Area, I am seventh generation from him.
My dad's family the Lizana's were some of the first residents of the Delisle Mississippi area. I love to learn about our history. I have a cousin who did a wonderful family tree for us and it details back to the marriage of Ramon Lizana and Marie Louise Saucier I happened upon he details of Gebrielle myself.
This book is very well written. The details of the Native Americans are wonderful.
Rated of 5
Historical Fiction- unfinished main characters
I expected much more from Savage Lands. There were gaps in the stories behind the main characters, Elisabeth, Auguste and Jean Claude. Elisabeth comes to America as a young bride-to-be for a man she has never met to "populate the colonies. The story centers around Mobile and New Orleans and the very difficult world women like Elisabeth had to adapt to. The rich dialogue was overshadowed by the lack of detail with time and place.
I was very interested in this book as this time period focusing on strong women who survived diseases, lack of food, trauma of childbirth and isolation portended a great read. Unfortunately Savage Lands did not live up to expectations.
Rated of 5
Linda Z. (Corydon, IN)
Savage Lands by Clare Clark
As a history major, I really enjoy historical novels and this one was a winner. I learned what a "casket girl" was and a lot about the French settling of Mobile and New Orleans. I have found myself wanting to learn more about this period using the Internet and my local library. Names like Iberville, Bienville and John Law and even Massacre Island have whetted my appetite for more information. Maybe that is one reason why I enjoy historical novels along with a good story which this delivered.
Rated of 5
Judith M. (San Diego, CA)
Savage Lands started slowly with overwrought descriptive passages. However, I was sufficiently interested in the subject to continue reading and was subsequently totally engrossed. Part One builds momentum to a dramatic ending. Even though I didn't quite understand the motivation behind Jean-Claude's betrayal, I never-the-less was satisfied with the conclusion.
Part Two was a much different read. It was difficult to understand the inferences as the story seemed to drift, and I found that I no longer cared about the characters.
As for the historical aspect, I would have liked to have the historical pages at the beginning, so as to be better informed along the way.
Rated of 5
Ocia B. (Nevada, TX)
Filles à la cassette
Being from southeast Louisiana, I anticipated reading a novel wrapped in the rich history of the casket girls. I did not really enjoy the book. It was hard to get into and some of the descriptive paragraphs were a bit much.
Rated of 5
Hilary H. (Tucson, AZ)
I was initially intrigued by the subject matter since I knew nothing about the "casket girls" but it took awhile for me to get into the book. There are interesting historical descriptions that create a vivid background for the story but the story itself seemed slow for the first half though it did speed up later on. The reader does feel for the women in the book as they truly had to put up with very difficult times. There were many parallel stories that were alluded to but were just on the periphery. I think the book could have been a much larger one with more intertwined stories, and more characters about whom I cared more deeply. I really wanted to see the map that will be in the published edition as I'm familiar with the area. Not a great read but not awful either.
Clare Clark was born in London in 1967. A senior scholar at Trinity College Cambridge, she graduated with a double first in history. She is married with two children and lives in London.
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