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Dessaulles, Henriette.

Translated by Liedewy Hawke. Willowdale (Ont.), Hounslow Press, c1986. 343pp, paper, ISBN 0-88882-088-7 (cloth) $29.95, 0-88882-087-9 (paper) $15.95.

Grades 7 and up
Reviewed by Joan M. Payzant

Volume 15 Number 2
1987 March

If you are tired of today's way of life, with young people shacking up, unavoidable exposure to loud rock music, violence on television, cynicism about religion, and poor manners, then perhaps this book is for you. I found it absolutely delightful to become totally absorbed in another century, another culture, and the slow-moving pace of Henriette Dessaulles's diary. The book is expertly translated, so that the reader is unaware that it was first written in French. Henriette used her diary as a confidant, and her style changes from that of a fourteen year old to that of a young woman of twenty-one, but, always, she records her most intimate thoughts rather than details of everyday occurrences such as weather or food.

The restrictions placed on Henriette by her cold stepmother and her religious background seem unbelievably harsh, and I read with surprise her rebellious thoughts about her convent school, confession, and boring sermons. From beginning to end, the diary chronicles the mutual love of Henriette and the boy next door, a painfully long-drawn-out passion, which survived seemingly insurmountable obstacles to finally blossom into marriage.

This is not a book for those who like action and excitement, but it gives a wonderfully detailed picture of life in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec in the late nineteenth century. I finished it with regret, wishing that Henriette had kept writing after her marriage. Unfortunately for readers, her husband, Maurice Saint-Jacques, replaced her diary as confidant, so she no longer needed the comfort that her old notebooks once supplied. Hopes and Dreams would be enjoyed by girls twelve and over, but perhaps most would not have the tenacity to stick with it to the very end, because of its slow pace.

Joan M. Payzant, Dartmouth, N.S.
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