Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather, 1931
2. Genre: historical fiction
3. What made you want to read it? Did it live up to your expectations?
The setting is Quebec, Canada, and I am reading books that allow me to be an armchair traveler. This book shows quite well the French origins of the town and area, but I needed translations of the frequent French exchanges, which the author did not provide.
4. Summarize the book without giving away the ending.
Shadows on the Rock was written after Willa Cather discovered Quebec City during an unplanned stay in 1928 and reflects her fascination with finding a little piece of France in eastern Canada. Set in the late seventeenth century, the novel centers on the activities of the widowed apothecary Euclide Auclair and his young daughter, Cecile. To Auclair's house and shop come trappers, missionaries, craftsmen, the indigent — in other words, those seeking cures, a taste of France, or liberation from the corruptions caused there by the excesses of the French court. Set against these fictional characters are historical personages such as Bishop Laval and Count Frontenac.
5. Did you think the characters and their problems were believable?
The characters were very believable, but it seemed to me that their problems were all minor. I couldn't decide whether Auclair or his daughter Cecile was the main character, but I eventually hoped Cecile would be able to stay in Canada, as she wanted to.
6. Was the time period important to the story?
This historical novel tells the story of early Kebec, set on a rock alongside the river. Supply ships from France were unable to make the voyage during the winter months, so the settlers had to plan carefully to have adequate provisions in order to survive during the winter.
7. Share a quote from the book.
He would die here, in this room, and his spirit would go before God to be judged. He believed this, because he had been taught it in childhood, and because he knew there was something in himself and in other men that this world did not explain.I won't say who thinks this because it could possibly be a spoiler for someone.
8. What do you think will be your lasting impression of this book?
I'm sure I'll remember the ROCK. I've never been to Quebec, and this book has made me curious about the arrangement of the city above the river.
9. Which readers are most likely to enjoy this book, and why?
Those who like historical fiction and/or want to visit a beautiful city via a book written by a master. It won't appeal to anyone who is looking for action with bloody mayhem.
10. How would you rate this book?
Rated: 7.5/10, a good book.
UPDATE: See also my post about "Quebec City."