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I loved this book and Boyden's other novels as well. I found the characters came alive for me and made the history alive in a way I hadn't experienced before, in spite of learning about the region and the indigenous relationships with the French through my entire school career. Nothing is held back in terms of the brutality and violence, but I think he does an amazing job of making the reader understand why each group commits these acts.
The fact that Boyden's claims to Metis heritage are dubious is very disappointing, but he is still an incredible writer who does meticulous research -I recommend this book for all Canadians and anyone who loves historical fiction with literary quality writing.
Boyden is a brilliant author. Over the course of the book he has crafted a gradual shift in each of the three main characters. His telling of the story from alternating points of view of these three characters developed an empathy for each in me. But I felt that only two adequately represented the Hurons’ and the Jesuits’ historical perspective, and that the Iroquois were cast as the villains and were not really represented in the character of Snow Falls. Despite having to take a break now and then from the excruciatingly detailed brutality, I was left with a thread of hope. As for the orenda, the spiritual magic of the natives, I suspect that the Jesuits’ (ie, colonials’) judgments of it as evil still persists to this day.
This powerful book brought to life a period of history I have not encountered since my elementary textbooks. For the first time, three sides of the story were allowed to speak, bringing to light the conflicting world views which have resulted in so much pain over the centuries.
As this was my selection for bookclub, I looked for author interviewed to understand more about the story and the background. The Canada Reads debates shed light on why this book matters in a broader sense. To paraphrase Wab Kinew, giving the indigenous voices a chance to tell their stories is the only way to begin undoing the damage of colonization.
I found the premise of this novel promising, however I am giving it a two for various reasons.
1. I found the view points in some sections confusing. There were 3 or 4 times where I had to stop and think okay, whose viewpoint am I in now. There are 3 different view points in the story. Bird, Snow Falls, and Christophe/Crow. The two that were the most difficult to distinguish were Bird and Snow Falls, as they are written in the same style.
2. I found the ending flat and circular, I suppose that was kind of the point of the story, in that it expresses the simplicity of death, however after such a long book it would have been nice to have a more concrete ending.
3. Although I know a lot of people liked the book for this reason, I found the intense scenes of violence to distract me from the story, as I dont usually read books of this nature.
There were parts of the story that I did enjoy, the depiction of native life and culture, as well as the importance of showing the problems with colonization. I also really enjoyed the chapter which described a traditional game of lacrosse, as well as Snow Falls and her raccoon, The chapters from the viewpoint of Snow Falls; I found were the most enjoyable.
You would like this book if you like realistic historical fiction, violence or realistic depiction of death, native culture, Canada, or missionaries.
I read this book for the Amnesty International Canada bookclub.
Set in the 1670s, in the time of early French settlement in Canada amidst the internecine conflict between Iroquois and Huron, The Orenda is a tense and brutal tale of death and survival in a rapidly changing world. The novel opens with a desperate but ambivalent flight across a snowbound landscape. Christophe, the Jesuit missionary, and Snow Falls, an Iroquois girl, have just been captured by Bird and his band of Huron Indians. Having just killed Snow Fall’s family, the Huron or Wendat are escaping from a band of enemy Iroquois bent on revenge. Bird, the main Wendat war leader, is himself driven by revenge for his own family murdered by the Iroquois. Through several points of view the novel examines the shifting alliances between native peoples and the French, amidst the devastating effect of disease on the native population. The captivating character of Gosling, a powerful independent woman with magical powers adds depth and unforgettable poignancy. The story is a snapshot of a brief and turbulent time in North American history and serves as a kind of monument to that troubled time.
This was a captivating book about Canadian history. A time when Jesuits were trying to convert the natives. I didn't want to put it down.
Brilliant even if it is more than a little uncomfortable
The Orenda is an historically accurate and intriguing tale of the interactions between the Huron, Iroquois, and Jesuit missionaries in early Canada. Rife with the atrocities of man, The Orenda is a depiction of the strength of the human spirit to overcome the greatest of tragedies. The first person narrative used by Boyden allows one to see the world of Huronia from three distinct perspectives and will keep the reader captivated throughout the entire journey.
All of the books that are written from the viewpoint of "the Original Peoples of Canada" have the belief that life here would have been glorious if Europeans hadn't discovered America. What they fail to recognize is that, if it hadn't been the British, French or Spaniards, it would have been some other nationality eventually. Many Europeans were living a very poor existence and risked their lives to find a better life in the new world. Something very similar is happening with the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe right now. People are just looking for a better life. Even the American Natives welcomed the introduction of knives, guns, cooking utensils and cloth from Europe, as it made their lives easier. To feed large numbers of people, hunting and gathering is just not a viable option. The pioneers that came over here were constantly trying to improve their way of life, as that is in our DNA. We build on the knowledge of our ancestors, because of the written word. The native peoples of American had no written word before "the white man came". We may have not done the right thing when we came to this land, because hindsight is 20/20. The Natives did not want to adopt our way of life, but how could we live side by side in separate nations? It's hard to watch your neighbours driving cars, living comfortably in houses and buying food/clothing in stores, while you continue to live as a hunter/gatherer.
Good story depicting early native life when the French arrived in Canada. Graphic details.
A must read for those interested in understanding. Yes, it is graphic and brutal. Excessive? I wouldn't know would I? Being raised R.C. in the fifties, I certainly had a different view of our colonial history. Through this novel, I hope that I am more aware of the native point of view.
This is an outstanding work of historical fiction and highly recommended. It is worthy of legend status and is one to be remembered.
A descriptive and graphic portrayal of interactions among Native Aboriginal groups as well as European settlers in Canada's early days. The beauty of the land shines through while the brutal torture inflicted by the Aboriginals is descriptive to the point of being disturbing. I enjoyed the storyline and gained a better understanding of how our country formed. I would definately recommend this book.
Boyden's books always take me a little more effort in the beginning, but once I hit that certain point, I'm always spellbound. The Orenda was a devastatingly raw read, the type that makes you sit there for a few minutes at the very end, utterly speechless with emotion.
Don't let the beginning daunt you. It's well worth it.
very graphic tale of Native American Tribes and Jesuit Missionaries. Too Graphic-Much torture. Maybe realistic but could not read. Did not finish.
Oops... Intended to give it four stars, not 2 1/2.
A bit brutal but probably very real. Author seems to give a good picture of the native customs and the trials of the missionaries who had been "sent" by France to convert the natives.
Canadian history at its best!
Provides an interesting view of life of indian tribes during the early settlement of North America by Europeans. There were times when I found the issues raised were somewhat cliche ridden, in particular the wrongs suffered by the indigenous poeples. As a novel showing the conflicts that the characters had to deal with, it was very thought provoking.
The brutality, Indian tribe to Indian tribe, if true is something that Indian nations cannot be proud of. The brutality portrayed will upset many people, myself included.
Well written, probably what 17th century life was really like, with shifts in POV that force you to pay attention. However I was worn down halfway through by torture descriptions and a plot that didn't seem to be going anywhere interesting.
Absolutely loved this book! Slow start but beautifully illustrated, couldnt put it down and did not want it to end!
Started OK, but never got momentum to turn the pages. Made it half way, tired of trying to figure out who was speaking, and more tired of the torture descriptions.
Gotta run - Jeopardy is on!
This is a well written book but I got bored with it about half way through. It does provide context as to how the Wyandot (Huron) people, once one of the great First Nations, was cut down to size by the Iroquois and now number less than 9000 in North America, and how the arrival of the white man only complicated things. One thing to observe is how all natives believe everything, not just humans, have a soul and should be respected. A lesson to be observed as we continue to take and not replenish the land.