Water’s Edge by Genevieve Fortin is a lesbian historical romance that I knew I had to review as soon as I saw the blurb. It has French-Canadians falling in love! As the resident Canadian (and French-Canadian!) at TLR, how could I not review a book that could be about my great-great-howevermanygreat-aunts?!
It’s 1888 and Emilie Levesque’s life changes drastically when her parents can no longer afford their farm in Rimouski, Quebec. Poverty forces the Levesques, like so many other French Canadian families, to move to Fall River, Massachusetts to work in a textile factory. With only her older brother, Joseph, as a friend in a new town full of unfamiliar faces, things start looking up for the Levesque siblings when Angeline Fournier saves them from a group of bullies.
Emilie and Angeline become fast friends, preferring each other’s company to everyone else’s. Even as they’re both brought in to work in the factory at a young age, they still find ways to spend time together. Through their teenage years, Emilie knows there’s something different about the way she feels about Angeline, never saying anything while Angeline puts off the advances of boys for as long as possible, knowing her future duty as a Catholic wife and mother.
A kiss changes everything, sending the women on their own paths until tragedy brings them together again. But can they ever be more than friends with the expectations of the time and the church looming over them?
Oh, Emilie and Angeline! I really felt for these women and their tension between desire and expectations in a time when they didn’t understand what they were feeling or even have examples of other queer people to draw on. I really appreciated that the author told the story from both of their perspectives because it let us see how they each grapple with feelings that they don’t understand, what their separate lives are like, and how they both feel as they come together again and move towards their happily ever after (I did say it’s a romance!).
The Writing Style
Seriously, I can’t understate how excited I was to read a book about French-Canadian women. I know, I know, I said that in my intro, but this is the first one I’ve ever read! And as much as I am French-Canadian and my family has been in Canada for more than 300 years, I actually don’t know a lot about our history. Genevieve Fortin clearly did an enormous amount of research and it comes out beautifully in the story without resorting to info dumps that bog down the reading experience. Whether she was showing us what life was like in turn of the century Rimouski, working conditions in a textile mill in Fall River, or how lesbians managed to find each other in cities, Genevieve Fortin makes it easy to picture and understand.
Everything worked for me!
I have to throw down a spoiler, so skip to the conclusion if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Are you ready?
Some readers won’t like that there’s a sex scene with Angeline and her husband. However, it’s entirely appropriate for the book, and I really appreciated how the author handled it, because we get insight into how Angeline feels about her marriage and sex with him.
Water’s Edge is a beautiful romance and I definitely recommend it. If you’re looking for your next great historical read, definitely check it out.
Excerpt from Water’s Edge by Genevieve Fortin
“I’m not coming back to school in the fall, Angeline.” Emilie slowly calmed down, as if stating the words out loud had made them so true that there was no point fighting her fate.
“But…but you love school so much.” Angeline’s voice was small, incredulous.
“I know, Angeline. I do love it. But none of us gets to go to school very long around here. Why would it be different for me? I’m not special.”
“Don’t you say that, Emilie Levesque. You hear me? You are so very special. Oh, I can’t believe this is happening. When am I going to see you?” Angeline leaned her forehead against Emilie’s as they held hands.
Emilie’s heart broke at the thought of not swimming in the river with her best friend or sitting by their favorite buttonwood tree every day, chatting about the books Emilie read, the drama du jour in Angeline’s large family, the Flint children they didn’t care for. And their walks to and from school. Oh, she would miss those most of all. She couldn’t lose all of her beautiful friendship with Angeline because she was becoming a mill worker. It had taken her nine years to find a true friend, and no one could take that away from her now. She wouldn’t let that happen.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781594935534
- Publisher: Bella Books
Genevieve Fortin Online
Note: I received a free review copy of Water’s Edge by Genevieve Fortin. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.
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