Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Savage Lands by Clare Clark

It is 1704 and, in the swamps of Louisiana, France is clinging to its new colony with less than two hundred men. Into this hostile land comes Elisabeth Savaret, one of twenty-three women sent from Paris to marry men they have never met. With little expectation of happiness, Elisabeth is stunned to find herself falling passionately in love with her husband, infantryman Jean-Claude Babelon.
But Babelon is a dangerous man to love. And when Elisabeth finds her love challenged by Babelon’s duplicity, the consequences are devastating.

This is the first book from my list of summer reads. And I found it very frustrating. I could barely contain my excitement when I first read the synopsis. The 18th Century, a foreign land, Indians, marrying a man she has never met and then falling in love with him, where I could I wrong with this one?

Well for one thing, and this is probably the thing that annoyed me most, I didn’t have the slightest idea as to how she really met her husband, what drew them together and why she fell so passionately in love with him. Jean-Claude is away for most of the year negotiating with the Indians so we never really yet to see them interact as a couple. I found it very difficult to like Elisabeth as some of her actions are beyond belief.

The author also covered pivotal events in the story in a very ambiguous way and it left me thinking, what exactly just happened there…? I found this deeply frustrating and often had to put the book down and come back to it later.

I frequently found myself a bit lost in the time line of the story. Time moves along quite fast yet the characters stay the same.  We follow a very interesting character called Auguste.  At just 12 years of age he is billeted to an Indian Village where he must learn their language and customs.  As time passes Auguste continues to be referred to as a boy when he should be around 18 years old, which is clearly a man in those times.

This story has so much potential but unfortunately, to me, the characters’ were not well developed and just didn’t seem to click together well.  From a historical point of view I found it very interesting. The reader learns a lot about how hard and brutal life was in Louisiana in the early 18th Century. Overall I was disappointed as it was not what I expected.

There is a bad mistake in terms of the writing and editing in this book. Auguste is thinking of a blue silk tablecloth that matches Elisabeth’s blue eyes and on the following page he remembers her brown eyes. I know I’m being petty now but in my opinion no author should make a mistake like that about their main character. What do you think? Am I overreacting?

If you like historical novels and want something light to read then give this go. 2 ½ out of 5

Describe it in two words: Disappointing and Lacking

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