I’ve always loved good historical fiction. Especially about time periods that I feel were a little neglected. This book fit that criteria.
Paradise by Joan Elizabeth Goodman
Gr. 7-12. Based on a true story, this is an unromanticized, feminist version of adventure tales such as Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson. When explorer Captain Jacques Cartier returns to France in 1536 with stories of great wealth in Canada, Sieur de Roberval sets sail for the Canadian wilderness. Among his passengers are his niece Marguerite; her serving lady, Damienne; and a stowaway, Marguerite’s great love, Pierre. During the voyage Pierre is discovered and cast into the sea and Marguerite and Damienne are abandoned on the Isle of Demons. Miraculously, Pierre lives, swimming ashore into Marguerite’s waiting arms. Thus begins the trio’s fight for survival. As the newcomers battle the mosquitoes (the true demons of the island) and the natives, they struggle to find food and shelter, and their paradise becomes a prison from which there is no escape. The author has fleshed out Marguerite’s story from several historical sources, altering it to be more hopeful but no less amazing. The book will be an invaluable addition to the literature about the colonization of the New World. Frances Bradburn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
I found this particularly intriguing since the heroine, Marguerite de la Rocque, appears to have truly existed, and the ordeal Goodman recounts is fairly accurate (save some details and creative license).
Strengths: This book was well written for the intended audience. This could have been a very ponderous novel, but Goodman narrowed the focus enough and kept the tone appropriate for her readers. This was enjoyable for me, since I really was looking for something a little lighter (not FUNNY, just lighter). Goodman really captures Marguerite in every sense: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Pacing of the narrative is consistent and well-developed throughout, without notable gaps or lapses in detail.
Potential Flaws: Nothing really that weakens the impact of the book. If you’re looking for gritty realism, you won’t really find much of it here, although it’s definitely not a rosy picture Goodman paints. The historical note at the end was woefully short, however. I really wanted to know MORE about Marguerite than what Goodman provides. If she did indeed consult several historical sources, I would think there would be more to share…
Solid and entertaining. A fast read, very suitable for middle-grade readers.