Blog Post 11: The Quintland Sisters

Five girls, age 6 or so, dressed in identical outfits but differing colours. We see them only from the waist down. They're standing on an old plank wood floor, and the book title is superimposed over the floor section of the image.As is clear if you have read any of this book nerd’s previous posts (which I hope you have), you know that I am a die-hard historical fiction fan, and the novel The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood falls right on to that mark.

Written from a diary perspective of Emma Trimpany, a potential midwife turned nurse, we are brought to northern Ontario in the 1930’s to a decrepit farmhouse, where a set of quintuplets (five babies born to the same mother at the same birth) were born to the strict French Canadian Dionne family. The “Famous Five,” as they are known in the book, are: Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Marie, and Emilie. Present from the very moment the girls were born, and helping care for them in the critical first few days, Emma has grown to love the Five almost as if they were her own. Seeing the love and interest Emma had for the girls, she was sent to complete a year of nurse’s training, to then return as a full-time nurse to care for the quintuplets, who were transferred to a nursery designed just for them. You feel like you are right there with Emma during the first five years of the girls’ lives, and experience all the custody/money battles, intense rules to raise the girls, the nosey strangers worldwide who come to observe them, and her rising unease about the Dionnes. It is a fascinating story based around the time of the Great Depression and World War II, and demonstrates the Anglophone/Francophone conflict of Canada.

I find this book intriguing not only because I love historical fiction, but also because I am a twin; twins and quintuplets are both obviously births resulting in multiples. So based off my own unique situation and critical state at birth (just like the quintuplets), I felt like I had a special connection with this novel. Also, like the quintuplets who were famous for being the only set in the world at that time, my twin sister and I were also famous but on a much smaller level, just in our hometown. So while reading The Quintland Sisters I found myself connecting their story and experiences to similar parts of my own.

I highly recommend reading this book, especially if you enjoy Canadian historical fiction. It is very well written and I really liked the diary aspect, which I thought I wouldn’t, at first. Relating to the characters is easy, and you learn a lot about quintuplets and multiple births, which people don’t really know much about unless you are a part of multiples. You also gain new insight into the French/English issues that Canada has always seemed to have. I especially found this interesting since I come from a French Canadian background. Overall The Quintland Sisters is a captivating, surprising and unique book that shows one more perspective of our vast country.

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