"The Nine Lives Of Charlotte Taylor"

The Nine Lives Of Charlotte Taylor by Sally Armstrong

There are things I loved about this book and things I didn't like at all. Let's start with the good stuff. 

The book is set in New Brunswick, Canada where I have lived all my life, so I recognized the place names, the weather conditions, the season changes, etc. I absolutely love reading about local history and this book is full of it. It tells the story of Charlotte Taylor (an actual historical figure) from the time she arrives as a young woman in the unsettled wilds of 1700's New Brunswick through her marriages, children and various living situations until her death in 1841. The bones of the story are true, the fleshing out is fictional.

It is a fascinating story and quite well told. It gives a nicely detailed picture of what daily life was like for the brave souls who settled in the Miramichi river area in the very early days. Their interactions with the native people who were here long, long before the white man and with the Acadien people who endured a shattering expulsion in 1755, make for a story full of beauty, suspense and pathos.

However. In the first half of the book I sometimes wished Charlotte had had less than nine lives. As interesting as she was, I found myself wishing things would move along a little more quickly and checking to see how many pages were left to the end. Then in the second half, and especially close to the end, years would pass with the turn of a page and in one place five years passed between paragraphs. I wish the tempo of the story had been a little more regular.

Another thing I didn't like was that the entire book is written in the present tense. Not "She thought" but "She thinks"; not "The summer of 1825 was hot" but "The summer of 1825 is hot". I found having the entire story written that way a little disconcerting. It seemed to halt the flow of words at times. Or something. I'm not sure why I didn't like it, it just felt strange.

There was one more thing I didn't like: Charlotte herself, especially in the latter years of her life. Of course there's no way to know what her real personality was like, but in the book I found her stubborn and lacking in compassion at times. On one hand it's realistic that every character has faults, on the other hand I didn't find her an appealing character.

Overall I'm glad I read it. It was good to learn some local history and it really is interesting. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good pioneer tale. It's not a great book, but it is a good story.


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