Black Robe by Brian Moore

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Word PressThis sounded promising, but it was very short and I was left feeling that it could have been a lot more.  It tells the story of a mid-17th century French Jesuit missionary and his assistant, travelling amongst bands of Algonquins in what’s now the province of Québec.  Leaving aside the irritating arrogance of people who thought that their religion was better than anyone else’s and that they should go around trying to convert men, women and children who had no interest in converting, even hassling them on their deathbeds, it’s an interesting setting for a book, and the author had obviously done a lot of research.  Some of the language shocks, and some of what goes on, including cannibalism, shocks even more, but the author never tells the story in a way that comes across as condemnatory or judgemental.

However, the book’s just too brief.  I never felt that I got to know any of the characters properly.  One of the main themes was the relationship between, and eventual marriage of, the Jesuit’s assistant and an Algonquin girl, but we never even got to see how they met.  Maybe I was missing something, but I didn’t feel very satisfied at the end of the book.   It felt as if it could have been so much more, but it wasn’t.

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