Savage Lands

Clare Clark

Savage Lands

Louisiana, 1704, and France is clinging on to a swampy corner of the New World with only a few hundred men. Into this precarious situation arrive Elizabeth Savaret, one of a group of young women sent from Paris to provide wives for the colonists, and Auguste Guichard, the only ship's boy to survive the crossing. Elizabeth brings with her a green-silk quilt and a volume of Montaigne's essays; August brings nothing but an aptitude for botany and languages. Each has to build a life, Elizabeth among the feckless inhabitants of Mobile who wait for white flour to be sent from France; Auguste in the 'redskin' village where he has been left as hostage and spy. Soon both fall for the bewitching charisma of infantryman Jean-Claude Babelon, Elizabeth as his wife, Auguste as his friend. But Babelon is a dangerous man to become involved with. Like so many who seek their fortunes in the colonies, he is out for himself, and has little regard for loyalty, love and trust. When his treachery forces Elizabeth and Auguste to start playing by his rules, the consequences are devastating. 3.5 out of 5 based on 4 reviews
Savage Lands

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre Historical Fiction
Format Paperback
Pages 384
RRP £12.99
Date of Publication March 2010
ISBN 978-1846553516
Publisher Harvill Secker
 

Louisiana, 1704, and France is clinging on to a swampy corner of the New World with only a few hundred men. Into this precarious situation arrive Elizabeth Savaret, one of a group of young women sent from Paris to provide wives for the colonists, and Auguste Guichard, the only ship's boy to survive the crossing. Elizabeth brings with her a green-silk quilt and a volume of Montaigne's essays; August brings nothing but an aptitude for botany and languages. Each has to build a life, Elizabeth among the feckless inhabitants of Mobile who wait for white flour to be sent from France; Auguste in the 'redskin' village where he has been left as hostage and spy. Soon both fall for the bewitching charisma of infantryman Jean-Claude Babelon, Elizabeth as his wife, Auguste as his friend. But Babelon is a dangerous man to become involved with. Like so many who seek their fortunes in the colonies, he is out for himself, and has little regard for loyalty, love and trust. When his treachery forces Elizabeth and Auguste to start playing by his rules, the consequences are devastating.

Reviews

The Times

Sarah Vine

The book is vivid with historical detail, the characters intense with drama and feeling. Like all good historical novels it deftly manages the trick of slowly submerging the reader into the period, not only sketching a visual landscape, but a cultural and emotional one, too. This is genuinely a story to lose yourself in, an intense and satisfying read for all lovers of period fiction.

27/02/2010

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The Washington Post

Sybil Steinberg

Powerful… Equally potent as the encompassing sense of place, the moral complexities that influence these characters infuse "Savage Lands" with emotional resonance. Clark's commitment to historical color is matched by the dramatic arc of an engrossing story.

24/02/2010

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The Guardian

Ursula K Le Guin

It might behove a novelist writing in English about French-speaking settlers in 18th-century Louisiana to learn the difference between shall and will. She might well feel a twinge of uneasiness at allowing a character to announce that "The Lord is with us wherever we goest". Sloppiness of this kind makes it hard to take a historical novel seriously. Savage Lands takes itself quite seriously – not a flicker of humour – though it is well told and well paced, with an easy narrative flow… And the historical research that underpins it seems, if not deep, then perfectly solid.

13/03/2010

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The New York Times

John Vernon

In many respects, “Savage Lands” is a good old-fashioned (that is, slow and deliberate) 19th-century novel, with all the weight of material detail and all the unexpected turns of plot and shifts of time and place that we expect from such productions. The physical world of Louisiana, its bursting ripeness and rot, becomes a metaphor for the characters’ inner lives, and this is undoubtedly where the novel’s strength lies. Clark’s descriptive prose contains some startling metaphors... But the descriptions mount, and too often they read as though they’re on steroids

05/02/2010

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