The Quintland Sisters

The Quintland Sisters

A Novel

Book - 2019
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The story of the Dionne Quintuplets, the world's first identical quintuplets to survive birth, told from the perspective of a midwife in training who helps bring them into the world. 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 hardscrabble 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. As the fight over custody and revenues turns increasingly explosive, Emma is torn between the fishbowl sanctuary of Quintland and the wider world, now teetering on the brink of war. Steeped in research, The Quintland Sisters is a novel of love, heartache, resilience, and enduring sisterhood--a fictional coming-of-age story bound up in one of the strangest true tales of the past century.
Publisher: New York :, William Morrow,, [2019]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9780062839091
Characteristics: 444, 8 pages ; 21 cm.


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Sep 20, 2019

I really enjoyed this book. This book was a great example of how historical fiction can bring a time or event into life out of the history pages. Out of all the things I have ever read on the subject of Canada's quintuplets this was a beautiful piece. The girls came to life out of their many photos through the words of a training midwife Emma. She brings all the documents in a new light. Whoever you believe is in the wrong in the historical sense this book brings you a rounded documentation that would be a good jumping off point to do your own research. The very essence of historical fiction as a genre. This was a good read.

STPL_JessKovs Sep 18, 2019

I have a complicated relationship with this book. I enjoyed the writing and how Emma's fictional life was intertwined but I had a really hard time with character portrayals and certain liberties taken with the Quint's life. Considering some of the REAL people who are portrayed in this book are very much alive and still have to cope with their own realities from that period of time, I think perhaps some sensitivity could have been beneficial. Villianizing certain real life humans (who still have close relatives alive) and taking liberties with events we don't have evidence for, is a little hard to stomach in this case. Of course historical fiction always takes liberties with historical facts and events but I just feel like this one is too close to home and not enough distance was created between the characters and the real people. Considering how many reviews on goodreads said they had never even heard of the Dionne family, I think it is a disservice to what the living family members went through to misrepresent certain aspects or make "educated assumptions" where people may assume it all to be well researched facts within the fiction.

All this being said...if the book was written with the characters being fictional quintuplets with different names and marketed as historical fiction based around the lives of the Dionne Quintuplets...this would have been 4.5 star review. The missing .5 for the end where the author got bored and just phoned it in.

smfdenver Jul 24, 2019

I love historical fiction so I really enjoyed this book. As a former NICU nurse, and knowing nothing about the Quintland Sisters I found the whole story fascinating. I also thought the way the story was told (through the young woman) was a creative unbiased way to tell the story. I did think the first part of the story dragged a bit and got bogged down by the details. The book was good but could have been much more enjoyable had it been edited better. Despite that, I totally recommend it.

SPL_Sonya Jul 22, 2019

Please see Summary section for a full review of this book.

Jun 17, 2019

Having read a lot about Dionne Quintuplets history, I was delighted at first how the author managed to weave Emma's fictional story in with the real one. About halfway through it started to lose momentum and by about 2/3 of the way through it's as if the author got tired of writing it. While the ending for the Quints is of course, not particularly happy, the for the other characters, the book ends with the grace of a low budget TV series that suddenly had half the cast wanting to leave and the writers needing to make them exit the series. There is also one scene near the end that blurred the lines of recent history vs historical fiction to an unacceptable level. For something otherwise well researched, it felt cheap and tacky and very unnecessary.

Jun 15, 2019

I found the subject of the book to be fascinating but that is really the only thing that kept me reading until the end. I thought the parents could have been written more empathetically - how would you react if your children had been taken away but were living in an institution across the street? I liked the point of view of the midwife-trainee/nurse telling the tale but the end of the story for her was disappointing and kind-of off the rails with the rest of the book.

Pierre Burton's book on the birth and life of the Dionne quintuplets is really the only book that captures the essence of this historical blunder. The Quintland Sisters albeit part fiction, left me feeling angry at the depiction of not only the sisters sheltered lives but their parents who are portrayed as near monsters. There are one too many times where the physical appearance of Mme. Dionne is described in a mean and disgusting way. If the author found it necessary to show the loss of control these parents had over their five girls lives by making the parents look crazy, then shame on her.

Jun 09, 2019

Rich writing and build up of characters. However the ending was extremely abrupt and disappointing. I felt like the time invested reading up to that point was wasted. Great potential of a book so all the more unfortunate.


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SPL_Sonya Jul 22, 2019

My husband's mother is a triplet.  She, along with her sisters, celebrated their 80th birthday a few weeks ago.  It is no surprise then that The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood caught my eye.  A well researched work of historical fiction, it tells the story of the famous Dionne quintuplets who were born to an Ontario family in 1934, just five years before my husband's mother and her sisters.

The Quintland Sisters is written from the perspective of a well developed fictional character, Emma Trimpany, a young woman who assisted the midwife the night the quintuplets were born and lovingly took care of them during their early years.  The book is written as a diary, interspersed with personal letters and newspaper articles.  It primarily chronicles Emma's life with the quintuplets but also her own dreams, loves and tragedies.

We learn that the Dionne quintuplets were born in Corbeil, in rural northern Ontario, to a poor, young couple who already had five children.  The provincial government took the babies under their official guardianship declaring their parents unable to care for them.  The province built a hospital across from the house where they were born.  This hospital soon included a viewing gallery for the 6,000 visitors per day who came to see the girls, benefitting not only the local economy but their family and those who cared for them.  At one point Emma describes the quintuplets as a side show and the atmosphere outside the compound as a roadside circus complete with make shift souvenir and snack stands selling postcards, cotton candy, popcorn and hot dogs.

It eventually dawns on Emma that everything in Quintland is done for appearances -- a grand facade which hides the greed, pain and conflict of the girls' dysfunctional childhood.

My mother-in-law's parents had themselves made the trip to Corbeil to see the Dionne quintuplets, at the time never thinking that they too would one day be the parents of multiples.  The triplets became minor celebrities in Kitchener.  Their early childhood was chronicled in the Kitchener Record with a photo of the girls appearing in the newspaper each year on their birthday.  Fortunately, their parents had the opportunity to draw from the Dionne experience and moved their children to the backyard for fresh air and sunshine when onlookers congregated near the front porch.

The Quintland Sisters is available in print, e-book and downloadable audio formats at the Stratford Public Library.

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