This tells the story of two Louisiana families, one descended from Acadians expelled during the Great Expulsion and one descended from French aristocrats fleeing the Revolution. It takes their story up to the First World War.
What there was of it was well written, but it was under four hundred pages long and trying to cover the lives of seven generations of two families in a relatively short book inevitably meant that rather a lot got missed out. The Louisiana Purchase itself wasn’t covered very thoroughly: we seemed to get to the War of 1812 with very little having said about the fact that Louisiana was now part of the United States. Reconstruction was covered in a fair amount of detail, but the Civil War itself wasn’t. Not a single mention of anyone empting chamber pots on Union soldiers’ heads! Very little about the build-up to the Civil War either, come to that.
What struck me most, though, was the portrayal of the Great Expulsion. Don’t get me wrong: it was a terrible thing to do, and one of the greatest stains on the history of the British in North America. Not to mention the fact that, due to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, everyone thinks it was entirely down to the British rather than being due to both the British and the New England colonists. However, Elizabeth Nell Dubus did make it sound even worse than it was, suggesting, for example, that families were separated deliberately, rather than becoming separated in the chaos. Is this the story that’s been handed down in Cajun culture, as stories of the Boer War have been handed down in Afrikaner culture? It’s a controversial subject, and there was no excuse for what happened – and really it’s strange that it did happen: certainly nothing of the kind ever happened in Quebec province when that was ceded to Britain.
Anyway – that, as I said, is a controversial subject. A less controversial one is the fascinating story of the unique culture of this part of Louisiana; and this book depicted that very well.