Review: The Quintland Sisters - Shelley Wood

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My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (1930s), Fiction, Adult Fiction

Reading Challenge: 9 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

In Shelley Wood’s fiction debut, readers are taken inside the devastating true story of the Dionne Quintuplets, told from the perspective of one young woman who meets them at the moment of their birth.

Reluctant midwife Emma Trimpany is just 17 when she assists at the harrowing birth of the Dionne quintuplets: five tiny miracles born to French farmers in hardscrabble Northern Ontario in 1934. Emma cares for them through their perilous first days and when the government decides to remove the babies from their francophone parents, making them wards of the British king, Emma signs on as their nurse.

Over 6,000 daily visitors come to ogle the identical “Quints” playing in their custom-built playground; at the height of the Great Depression, the tourism and advertising dollars pour in. While the rest of the world delights in their sameness, Emma sees each girl as unique: Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Marie, and Émilie. With her quirky eye for detail, Emma records every strange twist of events in her private journals.

As the fight over custody and revenues turns increasingly explosive, Emma is torn between the fishbowl sanctuary of Quintland and the wider world, now teetering on the brink of war. Steeped in research, Quintland is a novel of love, heartache, resilience, and enduring sisterhood—a fictional, coming-of-age story bound up in one of the strangest true tales of the past century.

My Thoughts —

So I first learned about the Dionne quintuplets in a women’s history course in university. If you’re not familiar with the case (which you probably aren’t), basically in the 1930s, a woman in Ontario, Canada gave birth to quintuplets. Her and her husband were poor, lived in a farmhouse without electricity, and already had a number of children. Having quintuplets was extremely rare in that time. What was more rare was that all five babies, born two months premature, survived infancy. Shortly after Elzire Dionne gave birth, a doctor named Allan Roy Dafoe who effectively took control over the babies and even created a hospital and nursery nearby where the girls grew up for many years, with a viewing window through which visitors could watch them play (no, I’m not joking). They were massively exploited, used to sell products and advice to mothers. It was all crazy and honestly pretty gross.

This novel is highly fictionalized, which I think is the most important aspect to be pointed out in this review. Please don’t go into reading this novel with expectations of an honest representation of the controversy of the early lives of the Dionne quints, ‘cause you ain’t going to find it here. What you will find, however, is a pretty basic idea of the quintuplets’ story and an entertaining historical fiction about a little bit of Canadian history. Hurray for Canadian representation! We get so little of it, honestly.

The story’s lead character and narrator, Emma Trimpany, is a fictional character who was portrayed as a nurse to the girls in their first few years. Her story is told through diary entries and letters, which I think was an interesting and effective way to format the novel. I think for the most part, this story focuses on Emma’s life rather than the story of the quints. I mean, the quints are a major aspect of the story, however, it’s more about Emma’s personal growth, I believe. At the beginning of the novel, she’s this extremely naive, sort of lost young girl, and her time working with the quints forces her to mature and face some really terrible aspects of the real world.

All in all, it was an entertaining story! I think it was a good story about a piece of Canadian history, with the backdrop of the pre-WWII years. But in terms of being a good fictional retelling of the Dionne quints specifically… meh.

Had you heard of the Dionne quintuplets before?

Felicia x

Hamilton Waterfront

Ever since I've started attending school in Hamilton, I've wanted to go and explore the area. Knowing that I'll be here for at least the four years of my undergraduate program (and hopefully another year for my graduate studies!), I have really felt like I should be connected to not only the university but also the community which surrounds it.

This past weekend, my parents, my boyfriend, and I took a trip out to Hamilton's waterfront area to explore and get to know the area better. I was completely amazed at how such a beautiful area could be such a short jaunt from where I having been taking classes every day for four weeks now. In this little nook of Lake Ontario, there is a beautiful harbour where countless boats are docked, with a few lookout points with rocky pathways lined by trees and a massive outdoor playground where dozens of kids were enjoying the day. Just a few minutes walk down the way, our trail ended up at Bayfront Park which is just this amazing luscious area where people were biking, walking their dogs, and playing sports. It was so nice to see families gathered here on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, spending the day away from hectic work schedules or homework or the tv just to spend time together.

I also absolutely loved that there is a old-fashioned trolley that goes along the waterfront, stopping periodically along the way. I'm such a sucker for that kind of thing, I pretty much talked about it for the rest of the day! haha

It is so nice to know that I'm attending university in such a wonderful, family-friendly area, one I could see myself in long after my studies are complete. Walking (and driving) around, seeing a bit of what Hamilton has to offer, really helped to reinforce the thought that I have definitely picked the perfect university for myself.

Exploring McMaster University

Happy Saturday, everybody! I'm not sure how the weather is worldwide as of today, though I do know for certain that here in Southern Ontario the weather is quite poor today. Especially in Hamilton, where I spent my morning and early afternoon.

Currently, I am just about to hit the point of my senior year where I begin applying to universities then spending the subsequent months crossing my fingers and praying to receive acceptance letters. Before I start applying, however, I thought it might be best to get an idea of what I'm getting myself into. By that I mean attending the Fall Preview for my top university choice: McMaster University.

I've been on a constant back and forth, up and down rollercoaster when it comes to my program of interest. I started with Creative Writing, then realized how unrealistic it is to become the next J.K. Rowling meanwhile having no job to support me. Then I switched over to Journalism and later changed my mind. I also went through English, History and Child & Youth Care, before settling on my current choice: Psychology. And out of every school, McMaster's Social Science faculty has reigned superior to me.

I travelled out to McMaster early this morning, with my parents, my boyfriend and his parents. Coincidently enough, McMaster is also my boyfriend's first choice, instead for him it's Life Sciences. After parking in the visitor's lot and taking a school bus - yup, a big yellow one - to the heart of campus, our day began.

We started at McMaster University Student Centre, where we met up with a lovely British woman in her fourth year at Mac who led a group of us through a 45-minute campus tour. It was absolutely pouring rain as we did the mostly outdoor tour though all we could do was grin and bear it. Despite the dreary weather, I was excited and eager to learn about the campus. She took us inside the Life Sciences building, past the construction site which will soon be home to the L.R. Wilson Hall - the new Liberal Arts/Social Sciences building - and inside one of the libraries as well as the on-campus athletic centre.

Afterwards, my parents and I left my boyfriend - who headed to one of the residency tours - and we went to Gilmour Hall for an information session on the Social Sciences faculty. Also around 45-minutes long, it was so informative and really helped me to get a better idea of what each program really can offer. I also learned of some really incredible opportunities such as the interdisciplinary programs - meaning combining different programs to create one completely unique to your own interests and career goals - and the paid internships they offer to help give you experience before you graduate.

They also spoke about a particular research program they are doing for the Social Sciences faculty which sparked my interest. Dogs at Mac is a program where the bond between humans and animals, and the canine's affect on humans during stressful situations is examined. This is done by using three trained therapy dogs - Lily, Liam, and Scout - to release tension due to coursework and exams in students. I absolutely love dogs and this program sold me on McMaster haha

Afterwards, my boyfriend was at an information session for Life Sciences so my parents and I headed to Starbucks. As you do. We ended up sitting down for about 20-minutes, chatting about the school and my program. I ultimately have decided I want to integrate Social Psychology and Social Work, to form my ideal program. Once I'd finished my White Chocolate Mocha & croissant, we went to the info booths for Social Psych and Social Work, plus the Financial Aid and I also got to meet Lily, one of the therapy dogs, who was the sweetest little thing ever.

We ended our day at the Campus Store. Wow. It's huge and full of incredible little goodies. I was in McMaster merch heaven. My boyfriend's family and mine regrouped and headed out, but not before I bought myself a super cute maroon (their school colour) McMaster t-shirt.

After today, I feel like a huge weight of uncertainty and stress about what to expect for university has been lifted. Now, I'm just super excited to get on with this part of my life and start applying!!

If anyone goes to McMaster or knows someone who goes there or just is applying to any other university, leave me a comment and let me know how it's going! Hope everyone has an incredible rest of their weekend :)

Felicia x