If you’re from Canada especially, you’ve probably heard of the Dionne Quintuplets: the first known quintuplets to have survived infancy, born in northern Ontario. The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood is a new and unprecedented perspective on the story of these well-loved, identical sisters, told through a fictional narrator.
To me the power of the story came from the complexity of this narrator, who represents both the care and concern that these girls deserved and the tragic reality of their exploitation.
At first, 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 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.
At first, Emma seems unable, or perhaps unwilling, to see the toll that this life in the limelight takes on the relationship with their family and the exploitation of those who wish to profit off them has on the girls. Take a journey with the narrator and experience indignation, affection, and heartache for the “Quints” and learn about the power of resilience.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did Savvy Readers!