This gripping and hugely enjoyable adventure, set against the magnificent backdrop of 19th-century Canada, addresses the timeless themes of war, love, and the emotional bonds that bind people.
The year is 1811 and Mark Greenhow, a young Quaker, leaves his small community in northern England and embarks upon a life-changing journey. His sister, Rachel, a missionary traveling in North America, has gone missing and is presumed dead. Only Mark refuses to abandon hope. What follows is a beautifully evocative and gripping account of Mark's search across Canada's vast, uncharted wildernesses. Traveling with the voyageurs-the men who canoe the immense Canadian fur-trade route-in search of the truth about his sister's last journey, Mark struggles to maintain his religious belief in non-violence while all around him take up arms in the War of 1812. Voyageurs is a gripping and hugely enjoyable adventure set against the magnificent backdrop of nineteenth-century Canada that also addresses the timeless themes of war, love, and the emotional bonds that bind us to one another.
From Publishers Weekly
Presented as a manuscript discovered by the author in the attic of her country house in the North of England, this meticulously crafted, self-reflexive historical novel tells the story of Mark Greenhow, whose Quaker family once owned the house. In 1811, Mark's younger sister, Rachel, while doing missionary work in Canada, met and married Adam Mackenzie, a Scot associated with the fur trade in North America. Because the marriage was outside the order, Rachael was disowned; subsequently, she lost her baby and mysteriously disappeared into the wilds of what is today northern Michigan. Determined to discover his sister's fate, Mark departs for Canada, where he spends nearly two years sorely testing his Quaker faith through episodes that reveal to him the wider world beyond his placid English countryside. In the meantime, the War of 1812 rages and Mark tries to avoid the kinds of "vain" entanglements that would contradict his beliefs. The inclusion of Mark's own footnotes, lengthy discourses and commentary on his adventures and their aftermath lessens the story's suspense. The novel's interest lies in Mark's struggle to reconcile his faith with the verities and practicalities of the "real world" and in Elphinstone's mastery of early 19th-century argot.
Set largely in the wilds of the U.S.-Canadian border on the eve of the War of 1812, this novel celebrates persistence, integrity, and bonds between cultures. Mark Greenhow leaves home in England at the age of 23 to search for his younger sister, Rachel, who (with her aunt) took her Quaker ministry to Canada, was disowned by her faith for marrying outside it, and vanished while grieving for her stillborn son. After a voyage of many months, Mark finds Rachel's husband, fur trader Alan Mackenzie, and with French-Indian voyageur Loic they return to the Indian-inhabited island where Rachel disappeared to search for her. Mark's religion of peace proves ultimately beneficial, even as the extent to which the politics of war play a role in events is gradually revealed. The story is presented as Mark's journal as rewritten by him 27 years later, a structure that is initially confusing, with footnotes added in the rewriting that impede the flow of the narrative. Still, beyond its opening chapters, this adventure becomes more involving, avoiding predictability to reach a satisfying conclusion.