The Orenda

The Orenda

Book - 2013
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Set in 17th-century Ontario during the French conquest of Canada, this sweeping, richly detailed historical epic unfolds through the eyes of three individuals: Huron (Wyandot) warrior Bird, his Iroquois captive Snow Falls, and Jesuit Missionary Père Christophe. As the French exploit long-standing conflicts between the Huron and the Iroquois to gain control of their respective territories, shifting alliances between all three groups irrevocably alter the landscape of North America and the lives of its indigenous people.
Publisher: Toronto : Hamish Hamilton, 2013
ISBN: 9780670064182
Branch Call Number: c823 B7899o
Characteristics: 490 pages : map ; 24 cm


From Library Staff


Indigenous historical fiction.

Joseph Boyden, award-winning author of Through Black Spruce, has written this sweeping, historical epic set in 17th-century Ontario. It is also available as an eBook.

Fictionalized account of 17th Century conflict between the Huron and the Jesuits.

Set in 17th-century Ontario during the French conquest of Canada where the French exploit long-standing conflicts between the Huron and the Iroquois to gain control of their respective territories.

From the critics

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Aug 26, 2019

Tea & Talk Book Club / March 2016

Feb 11, 2019

Place. Illuminates a shadowy moment in Canada's history.

Mar 21, 2018

I loved this book and Boyden's other novels as well. I found the characters came alive for me and made the history alive in a way I hadn't experienced before, in spite of learning about the region and the indigenous relationships with the French through my entire school career. Nothing is held back in terms of the brutality and violence, but I think he does an amazing job of making the reader understand why each group commits these acts.

The fact that Boyden's claims to Metis heritage are dubious is very disappointing, but he is still an incredible writer who does meticulous research -I recommend this book for all Canadians and anyone who loves historical fiction with literary quality writing.

Mar 26, 2017

Boyden is a brilliant author. Over the course of the book he has crafted a gradual shift in each of the three main characters. His telling of the story from alternating points of view of these three characters developed an empathy for each in me. But I felt that only two adequately represented the Hurons’ and the Jesuits’ historical perspective, and that the Iroquois were cast as the villains and were not really represented in the character of Snow Falls. Despite having to take a break now and then from the excruciatingly detailed brutality, I was left with a thread of hope. As for the orenda, the spiritual magic of the natives, I suspect that the Jesuits’ (ie, colonials’) judgments of it as evil still persists to this day.

Jan 29, 2017

This powerful book brought to life a period of history I have not encountered since my elementary textbooks. For the first time, three sides of the story were allowed to speak, bringing to light the conflicting world views which have resulted in so much pain over the centuries.

As this was my selection for bookclub, I looked for author interviewed to understand more about the story and the background. The Canada Reads debates shed light on why this book matters in a broader sense. To paraphrase Wab Kinew, giving the indigenous voices a chance to tell their stories is the only way to begin undoing the damage of colonization.

Jan 07, 2017

I found the premise of this novel promising, however I am giving it a two for various reasons.
1. I found the view points in some sections confusing. There were 3 or 4 times where I had to stop and think okay, whose viewpoint am I in now. There are 3 different view points in the story. Bird, Snow Falls, and Christophe/Crow. The two that were the most difficult to distinguish were Bird and Snow Falls, as they are written in the same style.
2. I found the ending flat and circular, I suppose that was kind of the point of the story, in that it expresses the simplicity of death, however after such a long book it would have been nice to have a more concrete ending.
3. Although I know a lot of people liked the book for this reason, I found the intense scenes of violence to distract me from the story, as I dont usually read books of this nature.

There were parts of the story that I did enjoy, the depiction of native life and culture, as well as the importance of showing the problems with colonization. I also really enjoyed the chapter which described a traditional game of lacrosse, as well as Snow Falls and her raccoon, The chapters from the viewpoint of Snow Falls; I found were the most enjoyable.

You would like this book if you like realistic historical fiction, violence or realistic depiction of death, native culture, Canada, or missionaries.

I read this book for the Amnesty International Canada bookclub.

Sep 21, 2016

Could it be sent to the Glen Abbey branch please

Set in the 1670s, in the time of early French settlement in Canada amidst the internecine conflict between Iroquois and Huron, The Orenda is a tense and brutal tale of death and survival in a rapidly changing world. The novel opens with a desperate but ambivalent flight across a snowbound landscape. Christophe, the Jesuit missionary, and Snow Falls, an Iroquois girl, have just been captured by Bird and his band of Huron Indians. Having just killed Snow Fall’s family, the Huron or Wendat are escaping from a band of enemy Iroquois bent on revenge. Bird, the main Wendat war leader, is himself driven by revenge for his own family murdered by the Iroquois. Through several points of view the novel examines the shifting alliances between native peoples and the French, amidst the devastating effect of disease on the native population. The captivating character of Gosling, a powerful independent woman with magical powers adds depth and unforgettable poignancy. The story is a snapshot of a brief and turbulent time in North American history and serves as a kind of monument to that troubled time.

May 13, 2016

This was a captivating book about Canadian history. A time when Jesuits were trying to convert the natives. I didn't want to put it down.

superglu2 Apr 18, 2016

Brilliant even if it is more than a little uncomfortable

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Add Notices
Jan 07, 2017

Other: One of the main characters also suffers from Stolkholm syndrome toward her abductor.

Jan 07, 2017

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Scenes depicting war

Jan 07, 2017

Sexual Content: One of the female characters encounters attempted rape, as well as rape and intercourse.

Jan 07, 2017

Violence: There are many scenes which depict violence in various forms. War, and torture being the most common.

runfastread Mar 19, 2014

Frightening or Intense Scenes: turture scenes

runfastread Mar 19, 2014

Violence: a lot of killing happening in the book - very graphic scenes of torture and killing

Feb 13, 2014

Sexual Content: Rape/attempted rape.

Feb 13, 2014

Violence: Scenes of torture. Graphic.

Age Suitability

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Jan 07, 2017

csrestall thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


Add a Summary
Jan 07, 2017

This novel is told from the view point of three main characters. The story begins with Bird, a Wendat warbearer, killing the family of Snow Falls a haudenosaunee girl. He does this as retribution for the killing of his own family some time earlier. He abducts her and keeps her as a replacement daughter. He also aquires a missionary named Christophe who is one of the other viewpoints.
Eventually Snow Falls either suffering from Stokholm syndrome or PTSD finally accepts her new fate, and resigns her self to her new life. She eventually meets a boy and falls in love, starting her own family. Christophe is constantly trying to find more converts to the 'great voice' He is eventually joined by two other missionaries, Gabriel and Isaac, who suffers from infirmaty after being tortured by the Haudenosaunee.
Bird is a war bearer for the entire story, suffering with the loss of his original family. He is constantly trying to replace them with a new family. He does seem to love Snow Falls, despite how he made her his daughter.
The culmination of the book occurs when the Haundenosaunee become tired of being attacked by the Wendat and decide to destroy them and the Mission once and for all. Bird eventually finds the new family that he seeks.


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