________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 19 . . . . May 26, 2006


Sophie's Rebellion.

Beverley Boissery.
Toronto, ON: Boardwalk Books/Dundurn, 2005.
224 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 1-55002-566-X.

Subject Heading:
Canada-History-Rebellion, 1837-1838-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

**½ /4


It had been fun. But fun and laughter, she realized, watching the gravediggers shovel dirt over the coffins, belonged to a long-ago time.


Sophie's Rebellion tells the story of young Sophie, an early teenage girl from a well-to-do American family in the late 1830s. Sophie and her future stepmother, Lady Theodosia, return from England and travel to Canada to visit with friends. In so doing, they place themselves in the centre of the smoking cauldron of discontent that shaped English-French relations in Lower Canada and contributed to the events of the Rebellion of 1838.

     The author, Beverley Boissery, is a noted historian whose book, A Deep Sense of Wrong, provides a more traditional, factual account of the events that she here represents in historical fiction. One of the beauties of historical fiction is the genre's ability to add interest and excitement to historical events. While this is somewhat true of Sophie's Rebellion, I found some parts of the novel rather slow moving. As hostages, Sophie and Lady Theo's days of captivity would, no doubt have seemed to drag on, but I found it unfortunate that the book seemed occasionally to do likewise. Those adolescent readers with a particular interest in Canadian history will no doubt enjoy the read and appreciate Boissery's attention to detail. Generally speaking, however, many teenage readers may encounter difficulty with those episodes where the plot seems to move slowly.

     Throughout the novel, Sophie receives considerable assistance from the young rebel, Luc Morriset. Indeed, both Luc and Sophie repeatedly endanger their own lives for the welfare of the other. Yet, I was never really convinced as to why that would be the case. Certainly, there is a between-the-lines (although never explicitly stated) suggestion of attraction and romance between the two, but even that suggestion seems insufficiently developed to justify such selfless risks and, in reality, the betrayal of one's own cause.

     Despite these reservations, Boissery clearly knows her history. The fact that she is an authority on the subject is, from an educational standpoint, reassuring. The construction of characters such as Sophie and Luc helps to make the historical content accessible and understandable. These things being the case, for specific purposes and for specific readers, I recommend this book as a means to help adolescents develop a greater awareness of the history of Canada and the role that history has played in shaping present-day Canada.

Recommended with reservations.

Gregory Bryan teaches literacy education classes in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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