Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor - Book Review

The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor
by Sally Armstrong
Published Vintage 2008 (PB)
First Published 2007 (HC)
Charlotte Taylor Website

This is a novel based on the true story of Charlotte Howe Taylor and her life in New Brunswick. The author is one of the over 2000 descendents of Charlotte Taylor.


Charlotte Taylor was born in England in 1755 to an upper class family. Her father was General William Howe Taylor. One of the servants was a black man names Pad who was the family butler. At age 20 Charlotte fell in love with Pad and asked her father for permission to marry him. The General refused so Charlotte and Pad ran away. They took a ship to Jamaica. By the time they arrived there, Charlotte was pregnant and Pad was feverish. He died of yellow fever shortly after they arrived. Charlotte was able to get passage on a ship heading north to what is now New Brunswick (but was actually part of Nova Scotia at that time).

Charlotte's first daughter Elizabeth Willisams (NOT williams) was born in December 1775 in a Mi'kmaq camp in Baie de Chaleurs area - now Bathurst. Charlotte was being pressured to return to England because it was not good for an young widow to live in the wilds of North America on her own. Charlotte and Pad were never married, but she passed herself off as Pad's widow in order to survive.

Charlotte was a tough women, she fought for women to have equal rights - or as close to equal rights as the men would allow.

Charlotte was married and widowed three times and had a total of 10 children - 5 girls and 5 boys. Charlotte knew that the only way to stay safe was to purchase and own land. But she was denied the opportunity to own land by the various local town councils - all composed of men - and also the governors office in Fredericton.

Charlotte was told "It is one thing for the Widow to claim ownership of the land, but it is another thing to carry on as though she has the same rights as men"

She was also told that "...as a married women, you have no economic or legal power. Your husband is your representative and voice in public." (chapter 9)

Charlotte argues against this and is told flatly by the men that "Land belongs to men and proper women don't meddle in men's holdings."

This was the attitude in 1785. I am so glad I didnt live in those times. It would have made me mad....but then if it was the only thing I knew as I was growing up, I would not know any differently.

Anyway Charlotte first lives in Miramichi and then moves along the coast to Tabisintack in Northumberland country, in what is now New Brunswick. It was decreed a separate province apart from Nova Scotia in 1784.

Southern New Brunswick was full of English and Loyalists from America. Northern New Brunswick was mostly Acadian French. The Acadiens fled to the Baie des Chaleurs area after the British deported the Acadiens from Nova Scotia in 1755. The Mi'kmaq were scattered all over the region.

If you ever wanted to know what it was like to live in early Canada in the late 1700s. This is an excellent book to read. I finished it in one day. I could NOT put it down. My husbands family are of Acadian origin. They come from Gloucester county - Shippagan, Tracadie-Sheila and St Isidore. Gloucester county lies immediately north of Miramichi and Northumberland county.

I read this book for the second Canadian book challenge.

2 comments:

Tara said...

Thanks for this review! This book sounds great, and I've never heard of it - a bonus!

Carrie K said...

It sounds like an excellent book! I'm interested in the time period and the Acadians.

I'd bet we'd still be annoyed by the chauvinism even if we were more accepting because what could you do back then? But start the march towards today.