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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book
Eloquently written through the alternating views of its three main protagonists, Boyden throws us headfirst into the moral/societal conflicts that would have presented themselves as European values clashed with Canada's resident, Aboriginal life-force. It is the historically tumultuous time of "First Contact".

We get really close to the characters, and Boyden's...
Published 13 months ago by Matthew Parker

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but could be better.
I bought this after a radio book review and I'm glad I did. The start and end are fast moving and gripping but some other sections drag a bit. It's well written.. and though the occasional torture scenes are graphic they are compelling.
Published 6 months ago by Roy


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book, 25 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Orenda (Hardcover)
Eloquently written through the alternating views of its three main protagonists, Boyden throws us headfirst into the moral/societal conflicts that would have presented themselves as European values clashed with Canada's resident, Aboriginal life-force. It is the historically tumultuous time of "First Contact".

We get really close to the characters, and Boyden's masterful (I'm likening him to our Canadian Faulkner) narrative technique makes it such that we too, feel torn between choices that could affect our very survival--physically or spiritually. The narrative style also serves to attenuate any blind romanticism one might have towards the Canadian landscape, or any of the novel's characters for that matter. A sense of realism prevails, and this adds depth to the book.

It also goes without saying that the novel is a great counterpoint to narratives that objectify First Nations existence as any one thing...the worst depiction being that of the "Sauvage" treading blindly in a loincloth. As its title suggests, "The Orenda" deals with the multitudinous nature of all living things: things are not so easily reduced to simple answers. Indeed, some might say that this is what the Seventeeth Century Jesuits, ultimately, were most want to discover. Aboriginal society in Canada was not only well-established and diverse, it also had--contrary to Colonial propaganda--very moral, magnanimous, and complex spiritual beliefs.

At a relatively young age, Boyden has become a truly great novelist. Where other writers idealize and/or moralize in their work, Boyden is bold in seeking the most unhewn and alive intersection(s) of human conflict...the very air and trees. "The Orenda" is a powerful novel of sight, sound, and smell.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but could be better., 22 May 2014
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This review is from: The Orenda (Kindle Edition)
I bought this after a radio book review and I'm glad I did. The start and end are fast moving and gripping but some other sections drag a bit. It's well written.. and though the occasional torture scenes are graphic they are compelling.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful tale, 12 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Orenda (Kindle Edition)
“The Orenda” is a fictionalized account that takes place in central Ontario around the mid 1600’s and covers the last years of the Huron Confederacy after they have formed a trade relationship with the French and before their dispersal by the Iroquois.

The story is told from three perspectives and this multi-narrative technique works especially well re-telling the same episode from each point of view. In no particular order, the narrators are: Christophe, a francophone Jesuit missionary: Snow Falls, an Iroquois teen kidnapped by the Huron and Bird, a warrior mourning the death of his family. In a haunting manner,Mr. Boyden expertly evokes and mirrors the cycle of destruction. The novel is punctuated by acts of cruelty, savagery, torture and climaxes in a bloody battle, definitely not a story for the squeamish. It is written with unflinching honesty to convey the complexity of the colonial experience and chronicles the mounting rivalry between the Nations, the process of colonization, fur trade, the effect of Christianity, deaths by small pox and other diseases, and the competition between the French and English settlers. A lot of attention was given to detail and I really wonder if the Haudenosaunee and Wendat Nations are truly represented? Or is this simply a well-written, highly imaginative, and pleasant reading material to trump the uncomfortable examination of colonization

Having said this, “The Orenda” is nevertheless a wonderful tale of spiritual conflict and a real page turner.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST BOOK FOR AGES, 3 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Orenda (Kindle Edition)
Wow, what an experience; this is the best book that I've read in a long while.

Many years ago, while on holiday, I picked up a battered compilation of J. Fenimore Cooper's 'Leatherstocking' stories in a charity shop. From then on I was hooked. These are five books and most people will only recognise the most famous of them; 'The Last of The Mohicans'. Their star is Hawkeye whose real name, in the books, was Natty Bumppo, but I'll bet you didn't know that as I can't see Daniel Day-Lewis accepting end credits to a film for a character called 'Natty Bumppo'! There was an awful lot wrong with Fenimore Cooper's novels but it seems odd to me that, although I've read thousands of books about almost every other culture under the sun, I haven't come across many serious books set in the North America of the 18th century and focussing on the aboriginal/indigenous/Indian culture. Other than pulp westerns of course. So, when I heard a radio review of The Orenda that praised it highly, I immediately bought a Kindle version. I hesitated because, for Kindle, the price was a bit high and I'd only, normally, pay more than £10 for the Kindle version of one of my favourite authors, not an author of whom I'd never heard. It was, however, one of my best choices for a long time.

This novel is a real 'tour-de-force'. There are three principal characters; a Huron (actually Wendat) warrior chief; the young Iroquois girl that he takes in a raid as his adoptive daughter and a French Jesuit priest. Joseph Boyden has adopted a slightly unusual style in that, instead of the whole tale being told by one character, each new chapter is told through the eyes of one of the three main characters in turn. As the reader, you switch your perspective periodically and this, simple, device works extremely well.

All of the characters, including the host of secondary 'players', are very well drawn and developed and the reader quickly forms a bond with, and an in-depth knowledge of, each main character. The descriptive passages of the landscape are beautiful and the dialogue is perfectly pitched to recognise the language barriers between these cultures. All of the characters are multi-faceted with no 'nasty villains' or 'dashing heroes'. More than anything, this novel is about family, community, loyalty and the struggle to survive, even for the indigenous population, in this beautiful but harsh country. And it's about change.

Now here's a strange thing that's difficult to explain. There are several very lengthy and brutally descriptive passages dealing with torture and all of these dwell on the detail more than any book I've ever read. Yet this isn't a violent book. That's because all of the violence (and there is quite a lot) is perfectly set in an appropriate context and is never, ever, gratuitous. The result is that the extreme depictions of torture are merely an expression of that part of the story. See, I told you that's it's hard to explain!

One of the problems with J. Fenimore Cooper's novels was his very limited knowledge of the Indian tribes of whom he wrote (he got very confused at times and this, unfortunately, coloured public views for many, many, years). Not so with Mr Boyden. This book just sings of authority; here is a man writing, with an assured flair, about a topic in which he is expert. This is quality. I learned quite a lot from this book (I'm ashamed to admit that it never occurred to me before that North American Indians were fascinated by woollen garments because they'd never seen them before; there were no sheep there). The writing style, in general, is superb. This isn't a rip roaring, action packed adventure story, yet it is very hard to put this book down once started (sorry for the cliché). The story just pulls you along. In case you're interested, the title comes from the American Indian belief that everyone has two souls, called orenda.

Being so impressed, I looked up other books by this author and was surprised by what I found. This historical novel is so compellingly authoritative that I expected My Boyden's other works to be set in a similar age; they're not. Interestingly, the main character in two of Joseph Boyden's earlier novels is called Bird, and The Orenda is prequel (by hundreds of years) in which the warrior chief is also called Bird, the ancestor of those in the earlier (or later, depending upon your point of view) novels. I shall read more of Mr Boyden and hope that it is all of the quality of The Orenda. Even if it isn't (and I find that hard to expect), I will always be glad that I read this.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, beautiful and brutal, 24 Nov 2013
This review is from: The Orenda (Kindle Edition)
This is a powerful story brilliantly told. It made vivid a time, place and people with both compassion and brutal clarity. The characters deliver outstanding narratives of love and loss, which challenged and enthralled.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Captures a sense of time and place, 18 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Orenda (Paperback)
Remarkable book.
I am not giving anything away by saying that this is a grim tale - it starts with murder, kidnap and torture after all.
What it does do is capture a sense of place and time - you get a sense of what it was like to live as a North American Indian and missionary in the early 17th century - which seems real.
Events unfold that have the feel of fact rather than fiction.
An excellent, if at times difficult, read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly written story of a Catholic priest's attempts to convert First Natiom Canadians to Christianity, 12 Nov 2014
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This review is from: The Orenda (Hardcover)
Phenomenal story of the attempts of a French Catholic priest to convert a First Nations tribe in Canada to Christianity: we usually in the past have deemed First Nations to be savages:but many of their spiritual beliefs are at least if not more acceptable than ours. Joseph Boyden is of mixed Fiirst Nations and Irish descent and his writing is descriptively brilliant. I couldn't put it down!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 15 July 2014
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A. E. Williams "History fanatic" (Liverpool,England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Orenda (Kindle Edition)
I haven't finished this book, I just became bored with same old,same old, nothing really happens. It is told in the first person by three different characters and while I can see the author's intention to contrast three perspectives on the culture of the tribe involved I think much of the problems I have with it stem from the fact that the voices are not distinct enough. I found myself wondering at the beginning of each chapter who was speaking and honestly I couldn't work myself up to care about any of them.Disappointed as the resume sounded interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gruesome but heroic, 2 July 2014
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This review is from: The Orenda (Kindle Edition)
this narrative is such a different approach to the early history of Europeans entry and changing of North America. it makes you think on how they changed a destroyed a whole way of life . I recommend this to anyone who likes to explore the deeper nature of change
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5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Story, 19 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Orenda (Kindle Edition)
This book kept me absorbed in the storyline which was, at times. difficult to read because of the cruelty of the actions of the native tribes. Initially the reader has to adapt to three different characters writing about their experiences but after the first few chapters it is easy to differentiate and this adds dimensions to the book. Not being an expert on North American natives I cannot comment on the accuracy of the work but assume that it is based on fact. It is a gritty and an eye-opening novel from a very different angle about this group of people.
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The Orenda
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden (Paperback - 3 April 2014)
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