A Land Divided

1951_Juvenile_E_F_Hayes

GOVERNOR GENERAL’S AWARD WINNER – 1951

A Land Divided

by John F. Hayes

illustrated by Fred J. Finley

Age: 10+ (independent reading)

Interests: Canadian history, war, adventure

Copp Clark Co. Ltd.: 1951

285 pp. – 20 chapters

Also by this author: Buckskin Colonist, Treason at York, Rebels Ride at Night, Bugles in the Hills, The Dangerous Cove: A Story of the Early Days in Newfoundland, Quest in the Cariboo, The Flaming Prairie, The Steel Ribbon, On Loyalist Trails

Also about the expulsion of the Acadians: Longfellow’s poem Evangeline

It’s 1755 in Acadia and tensions between the English and French are about to erupt in war. When fourteen-year-old Michael’s father is lost on patrol he and his cousin Pierre set out to find him. After many perilous adventures Michael and his father return home to Annapolis, where they play a reluctant part in the forced expulsion of the Acadians from their homes, including Michael’s own cousin Pierre and his family. Michael goes on to discover a great secret about Fort Annapolis and helps foil saboteurs.

This is a typical boy’s adventure story, but with a historically accurate view of the French Indian War, and a detailed portrait of everyday life in early Canada. The book starts a little slowly, with rather more description than needed, but once the plot gets going there’s plenty of suspense and action. It made me think of the Hardy Boys, with the two boys posing as French labourers to gain access to the enemy fort, and plotting to free Michael’s father.

The chapters describing the forced evacuation of hundreds of Acadians from Annapolis is vivid and heartbreaking, as familys are split up and herded onto transport ships with all their belongings. The farmhouses are then burned to the ground to prevent them from returning. After all the lighthearted adventure this sequence was surprisingly moving, a great example of making history real for young readers.

This is an old-fashioned kind of story – similar to the many boy adventure/historical war fiction that was churned out in Britain a hundred years ago – but with careful attention to historical detail and accuracy. At the end an Author’s Note reveals what really happened and what the author invented, for the history buffs.

(used copies available via amazon.com)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.