Review: The Quintland Sisters
Historical fiction has never been my first choice. If I’m reading about something even loosely based on actual historical events, I don’t want to confuse myself by muddling truth with fiction.
That being said, I did make a New Year’s Reading Resolution to branch out and try different genres. Not every book I read has to be a murder mystery, I suppose…
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood. It is written as a journal by one of the nurses who had the good fortune of caring for the Dionne quintuplets, the first quintuplets in history to survive infancy. It is a beautiful story of love, heartache, and the unusual way in which we become obsessed with things we don’t know or understand.
After the girls survive an extremely precarious period right after their birth, they quickly become an international phenomenon. The entire world is fascinated by them, and many—including their own father—are desperate to find ways to make money from them. The girls are loved, admired, revered, and exploited, and all when they are but a few years old.
The story also focuses on the midwife who helps deliver the quintuplets and nurses them back to health, Emma Trimpany. She shares her innermost thoughts and feelings in her journal, pulling at our heartstrings as she talks about her love for the girls, her colleagues, and the disgust she feels towards herself because of the large birthmark on her face. As the story progresses, it is a joy to witness the growth that Emma experiences and the improvement in her confidence as a result of her interactions with the quintuplets and the others who love them.
The Quintland Sisters is a heartwarming and deeply human story, written in a truly moving and captivating way. Whether you’re a fan of historical fiction or not, this is certainly a story you don’t want to miss.
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 5, 2019)
“A historical novel that will enthrall you… I was utterly captivated…” Joanna Goodman, author of The Home for Unwanted Girls
For fans of Sold on a Monday or The Home for Unwanted Girls, Shelley Wood’s novel tells the story of the Dionne Quintuplets, the world’s first identical quintuplets to survive birth, told from the perspective of a midwife in training who helps bring them into the world.
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, The Quintland Sisters 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.
About Shelley Wood
Shelley Wood is a writer, journalist, and editor. Her work has appeared in the New Quarterly, Room, the Antigonish Review, Causeway Lit, and the Globe and Mail (UK). Born and raised in Vancouver, she has lived in Montreal, Cape Town, and the Middle East, and now has a home, a man, and a dog in British Columbia, Canada.