Bélonie, first of the line of Bélonies to come through the Great Disruption, was a patched and peeled old codger when the ox cart rattled off on its way. And for the youngsters who clambered aboard, he would unravel the legend of the Wagon of Death. [….] for no man living had ever seen that sombre contraption with neither doors nor lamps, drawn throughout the world by six spanking black horses since the beginning of time.” – Pélagie: The Return to Acadie, Antonine Maillet
Initial thoughts: I was assigned this novel for a course on Maritime fiction. For those who do not know, the Maritimes are a group of three Canadian provinces on the Atlantic coast of Canada. The three provinces are: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (often shortened to P.E.I). Before you begin thinking to yourself “I haven’t read or heard of any books from the Maritimes,” think again. You are probably familiar with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s famous novel Anne of Green Gables. Yes, Anne of Green Gables is a work of Maritime fiction known widely throughout the world. Pélagie: The Return to Acadie by: Antonine Maillet is a lesser known Maritime novel in comparison to Anne of Green Gables. Hopefully, after reading this review, you will be tempted into discovering this wonderful novel!
Twenty years after her people were deported to the state of Georgia (The United States), Pélagie Leblanc assembles a cart pulled by oxen to lead her people back to the land of their forefathers, the land of Acadie. But, their journey will not be an easy one. Tested by the elements and perilous adventures, Pélagie and her people will have to decide… is Acadie a place worth returning to?
Prior to 1755, the Maritimes were once known as La Nouvelle France (New France) or Acadie. The numerous French immigrants who migrated from France to the three Maritime provinces are known as Acadians. After over one hundred years of their colonization of Acadie, beginning in 1755, the English colonists decided to deport the Acadians. Some Acadians were able to escape deportation and hid until the deportation was over. Some were not so lucky. Some of the Acadians were sent back to France, and others were deposited here and there along the eastern coast of the United States. Those who ended up in Louisiana began to call themselves Cajuns.
Pélagie: The Return to Acadie is the story of a group of resilient Acadians who were deported to the United States who seek to return home. The story is narrated in a tone which is designed to invoke and mimic oral narration. The style of narration is absolutely crucial to the storyline as it demonstrates the richness of Acadian storytelling. Antonine Maillet, the author of Pélagie: The Return to Acadie, has greatly studied oral storytelling. Maillet also has a PhD in literature and taught folklore at numerous universities in Canada and the United States. This knowledge of storytelling allows for a seamless blending of an oral tradition within a written text.
As the story is told in an oral format, the narrators are essential Continue reading