Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Review-Footsteps in the Snow

Dear Blog,
today's review is for Footsteps in the Snow, by Carol Matas (and part of the Dear Canada series). I got it for my birthday and, well, I thought it deserves a mention. Also as I'm still working my way through The Sweet Far Thing (about 300 pages to go), which I stayed up until 1:30 last night reading.
Anyway. On with the matter at hand.

Summary: It's 1815. As the book begins, 12-year-old Isobel Scott is on the voyage from Scotland to Canada with her father and two brothers, following the death of her mother, who died on the voyage. Isobel finds her old journal and, seeing as there's only a page or so written in, she starts recording her thoughts and feelings. They're on their way with some other Selkirk settles to Rupert's Land, but various complications ensue as they have too few supplies to last a winter, struggle to claim their land, and are caught in the conflict between the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Bay Company.

Review: I have a thing for historical fiction in diary form. I started reading the My Story series when I was eight, and since then I've also started working through the Dear America series and Dear Canada, as well. But Footsteps in the Snow is only the second book in the Dear Canada series I've read because they're so hard to get in England. But my general outlook on such fiction is: you can never have enough.
My favourite thing about this book had to be Isobel herself. She was such a believable character and I really found myself rooting for her. Maybe this was because she was unlike the uncountable numbers of female protagonists in such historical fiction, i.e being awful at sewing, wanting to run around climbing trees, getting their hair tangled and all in all looking for adventure, Isobel was the exact opposite. Nay: She spoke English as well as Scottish Gaelic and could read and write better than many other children in that era (i.e 1815). shewanted to be a lady, and believed that in Canada she could be just that. She wanted to live a life of luxury and happiness, "living in a grand house in the New World, with servants to wait on me and young men coming to call." This is what made her seem even more out of her depths traversing the Canadian wilderness at minus thirty degrees. This quote particularly struck me:

I cannot believe how far from my dreams we have sunk. We were supposed to begin a life where I would be a lady. Instead I am nothing more than a servant to the savages. I always try to bear myself with dignity, however, so as not to let them see that my pride is injured.
As I read it I was thinking, "YES! YES! YES! That's exactly how somebody in her situation would feel!" Carol Matas captured her character perfectly. Her frustrations, her joys, her initial resentment at her father marrying White Loon (a local Cree woman)...Everything was there. Eventually Isobel overcomes many hardships in the end and emerges as a strong young woman.

However. Despite this the book was quite slow moving at times, and I felt it needed a little push to get going again. Though it was a pleasure to read, when you sort of stand back and think, "so what happened?" The answer is, well, not as much as you think as you're reading this. But then, I suppose, it was told in diary form and you can't expect such a beginning-middle-end type plot as such.
Oh well. That aside, it's well worth a read for all fans of such historical fiction.
Rating: 4/5

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