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If you could sum up Promises to Keep in three words, what would they be?
heartrending, hopeful, brutal
What did you like best about this story?
the positive outlook the author put on this impossibly tragic tale
What do you think the narrator could have done better?
more emotion, enunciated the English better, separated the voices better
Any additional comments?
Story 5 stars
Graham’s Promises To Keep is a poignant and brutal reminder that real history is full of victims as well as victors as she retells what really happened in 1755 when the English forcibly expulse the peaceful residents of Acadia in what is present day Nova Scotia. The author uses two voices to tell her story, 1st person of her female lead Amélei Belliveau and 3rd person of Connor MacDonald the English soldier who becomes her unlikely savior, giving readers a unique fly on the wall view of the entire story. The dialogue definitely contains a taste of France and a hint of the Mi'kmaq Indians as she tells her heartbreaking tale of the harrowing journey of these people who lose their homes their land and many lose their lives during their tragic trail of tears. The characters are life like and utterly believable especially her courageous Amélei who suffers unimaginable hardships and still keeps her head held high and hope in her battered heart. Both history fans and lovers of literary historical fiction will devour this amazingly heart-rending novel.
NARRATION: 3 stars
There are a few issues with the audible narration- The narrator Alexis Quednau has Amélei down pat and is the perfect choice for her, however her recitation of the other characters is at times very monotone and non-emotional and lacks the versatility needed for the other parts, especially the male voices. Also her lilting French accent, with which she absolutely nails the French and Mi’kmaq Indian words and makes her perfect for Amélei makes it somewhat difficult to understand some of her enunciations of English. She does however get better with the emotional aspect later on in the novel.
In the mid eighteenth century in Grand Pré, Acadia the non-violent farmers of French descent and the Mi'kmaq Indians share the land and live in peace during the constant turmoil and battles between the French and English armies. But all that changes when in 1755 the English finally defeat the French and the lives of these peaceful people change forever.
Seventeen-year-old Amélei Belliveau and her family have a small farm in Grand Pré, Acadia and are happy to share their bounties with their neighbors and the English army, she has even started a friendship with one of the soldiers, a man who knows all too well what she and her family are going through. But the winds of change are blowing and none of them good when the English turn from neighbors to aggressors and turn the people of her village into prisoners.
Connor MacDonnell finds himself in Acadia as a victim of circumstance belonging to the same English army that ten years earlier killed his parents and destroyed his Scottish way of life. After getting to know Amélei she has become more than important to him and he is determined to ease what he is sure will be a terrifying change for herself, her family and her entire community.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Set against the tumultuous time of 1755 in Acadia, this sweeping family saga and love story tells of the waning days of the French controlling Canada, the British battle to take it, and the poor Acadian farm families caught in the middle. Graham's authentic, heartwrenching, yet hopeful tale focuses in on one Acadian family, the Belliveaus, and a war-weary Scot caught between love, honor, and duty.
Amelie Belliveau watches in horror as the British take everything from her and her family and shatter the loving family who are forced in many directions to survive even while she is conflicted about the feelings she has for one of the soldiers who understands all too well, having been a Scot who survived the English rushing over his Scottish lands and family. Connor MacDonnell swears a promise to her that she holds onto through so much heartbreak and misery. Connor will sacrifice anything to keep that promise and does.
This book had me crying so often that I'm glad I listened to it in the privacy of my own home. Lands, the tears I shed. This was such a heartwrenching story. I've read about the Acadians who were forced off their land onto ships that took them away with little more than the clothes on their backs only to find they were unwanted where they were dumped off elsewhere. I knew it would not be an easy or light story and it wasn't. I was deeply impressed with the author's attention to historic and cultural details and the depth of each character. This is a saga so there are so many characters with Amelie and Connor the central figures. All sides were represented in the cast of characters and I loved seeing it all.
The story is mostly told from Amelie's perspective. She starts off naive yet impetuous and headstrong. Then as events unfold she is forced to mature and grow strong in this trial by fire she endures. Connor, too, is an exceptional man. The pair needed a break and I was really rooting for them. It seemed each time they were going to get their chance, it was not to be and noble sacrifice was called up. Now, I might have cried my eyes out, but I also felt so much more. This was heartwarming and romantic in an understated way. Connor gave so much out of love and Amelie did as well. Others were getting their stories in the background and I was engaged with that, too.
As to the narrator, Alexis Quednau, was a first encounter for me. She had the job of French Acadian accents, British, New Englander, Native American, and oh so many characters with all that glot of emotion, too. I thought she told this one so well. She took the right tone and hit a good balance between inflection of emotion and the distance a good narrator needs so the listener isn't distracted.
So, this was a powerful story that has stayed with me afterward. I've read the author before and know this is not a fluke. She has a way of making history come alive and makes one feel attached to her characters who go through so much.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful