I think most of us know that a sizable part of the population of southern Louisiana are Cajun. We all know that Cajun’s are of French descent and have their own food,culture,and even language. Even though the Louisiana Purchase and the French and Indian War are touched upon in American history classes, I don’t think most of us know what that has to do with how the Cajuns got to Louisiana.
Back in 1750 the English, France, and Spanish had all laid claim to parts of North America. The French colonies were collectively called ‘New France’. The part of history that I think is not generally well-known is that at this point ‘New France’ occupied a large area of eastern Canada and what is now the central part of the U.S.
Like the English, the French had separate North
American colonies. These colonies were Canada, Hudson’s Bay, Acadia ,Newfoundland (Plaisance), and Louisiana (this occupied a larger area then the present day state).
Then came the treaty of Utrecht. It was a series of peace treaties signed by Spain, Great Britain, France, Portugal, Savoy and the Dutch Republic to settle the War of Spanish Succession. In this treaty France gave the area of Acadia to the English (this today is the Maritime provinces, and parts of modern-day Quebec and Maine). The English agreed to allow the Acadians to stay. That is until the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath to Britain. As a result the British governor Charles Lawrence and the Nova Scotia Council ordered the Acadians to be expelled. They were sent to the British American colonies, England, and France. Families were often slit up and sent to separate destinations. A few ended just west of the Mississippi River in French colonized Louisiana. By 1764 many Acadians who were expelled to other areas began to resettle in Louisiana.
Through time the word Acadian became the word ‘Cajun’. Up until the early twentieth century the Cajun’s were somewhat isolated. This resulted in the Cajuns developing their own unique culture and dialect.
In 1847 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published the epic poem Evangeline. ‘Evangeline’ told the story of the displaced Acadians. ‘Evangeline’ was extremely well received at the time and helped to bring awareness of the Expulsions of the Acadians.
A story is often enjoyed more and is more meaningful when the reader can relate to the book’s characters.
Evangeline was one of those characters for me. This novel captures perfectly the underlying edge of living in a hurricane prone area during hurricane season. Something I’ve ever read in a novel before.Another element of the story that I connected with was Evangeline’s Cajun background. This is the first YA love I have read where the main character is an American of French decent. Even though my own maternal grandmother was of Québécois decent and not Cajun, Evangeline’s Mamére and her sayings reminded me a lot of my Mémé.
Beyond the connection that I had to Evangeline’s story, I found this to be one of the most well written and multi-layered YA books that I have ever read. I find many of YA novels have similar themes and characters. ‘Between Two Skies’ does not. It tells the story of an ordinary sixteen year old girl whose life is turned upside down when she is forced from her home. Just this makes an amazing story. ‘Between Two Skies’ is so much more though. It parallels this Evangeline’s story with the Evangeline of Longfellow’s poem. Both are driven from their homes under terrible circumstances but they each try to make the best of their circumstances.
There is some romance in this novel. At first I wasn’t sure it was a necessary part of the story. However, as the book went on, I realized the romance in the ‘Between Two Skies’ parallels the romance of the Evangeline in the Longfellow poem.
The imagery in this book is just amazing. For example there is a scene is the book where
Evangeline explains that when she is out in her boat that she is ‘Between Two Skies’. The real sky and the sky’s reflection in the water.
My Final Judgement
I really think this book is amazing. The prose is one of the best I have read in a long time. The storyline was complex and multi-dimensional. The story it’s self positive and inspiring. I can’t wait for Joanne O’Sullivan next novel. If this is here début novel, I can’t wait to see what she does next.