Read Voyageurs by Margaret Elphinstone Online


Voyageurs has garnered praise for its historical versimilitude and its exacting character portraits, as well as the story's contemporary relevance. Margaret Elphinstone's magnificent sixth novel gives us Mark Greenhow, a naive and peaceful Quaker who lands on the shores of North America on the eve of the War of 1812, thinking only of finding the missing sister he has alwayVoyageurs has garnered praise for its historical versimilitude and its exacting character portraits, as well as the story's contemporary relevance. Margaret Elphinstone's magnificent sixth novel gives us Mark Greenhow, a naive and peaceful Quaker who lands on the shores of North America on the eve of the War of 1812, thinking only of finding the missing sister he has always admired for her adventurous spirit.Mark hitches a ride with the voyageurs who have canoed the rivers, transporting the tons of furs that feed the trade that has made the region a battleground of the French and British empires. Though Mark enters this brave new world with his conscience clean and his convictions sound, his encounters test his rigid upbringing. The backwoods of Canada have certainly led his sister astray; she has been excommunicated from the Society of Friends for running off with a non-Quaker. After her child is stillborn she runs again, deep into Indian country.Elphinstone's crisp and effortless prose, coupled with her riveting, organic descriptions, her fully drawn characters, and the history of the region, make this novel an astonishingly authentic and profoundly satisfying work of historical fiction....

Title : Voyageurs
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781841956435
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 480 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Voyageurs Reviews

  • Sid Nuncius
    2019-06-02 08:45

    I thought Voyageurs was excellent. I tried it on the recommendation of a friend and I'm very glad I did: it was involving, fascinating, extremely well written and completely gripping.Set in 1811, the story is narrated by Mark Greenhow, a Quaker farmer in Cumberland whose sister travels to Canada and goes missing in the Canadian wilderness. Mark travels after her to try to find her, following the fur-trading routes in canoes paddled by the voyageurs of the title. It is a long, hard but fascinating journey; Margaret Elphinstone paints a remarkably vivid and superbly researched picture of life at the time, with wars, political chicanery, the lives of the native tribes and the perils of frontier life. She also brings us very believable characters and some exciting adventures, and makes subtle but important points about family ties, friendship, integrity and much else.It is beautifully written. I found Marks' voice utterly convincing and a pleasure to read. It's a very rich book, but one of the things I loved was the way Mark struggled with his feelings and the strict Quaker rules he has always lived by, and how he manages to adapt and sometimes "fall" while never losing his fundamental integrity and principles – and how his reputation as an honest, principled man can sometimes protect him where the threat of violence would not.I found this gripping, touching and full of thoughtful, readable stuff. Very warmly recommended.

  • Cairns
    2019-06-11 08:46

    Well worth reading - the start is somewhat contrived which makes getting into the book difficult but once over the introduction the book takes the boy from the English lakes to the Canadian lakes in search of his lost sister. The book is set in the commercial and politic intrigues of early 19th century north America. The descriptions of canoeing across Canada with large loads of merchandise are engrossing. The search for the long lost sister seems a hopeless venture, particular as she had been disowned by her faith group and was suffering post- natal depression when she went missing. You feel that even if she was still alive that she would probably not want to be found. Mark, that upright and honest Quaker struggles to maintain his faith when faced with challenges and compromises in the Canadian outback. Well written, moving tale.

  • Thalia
    2019-06-15 16:01

    3.5 stars. The Canadian history buff in me loved this book. I believe the author did a fabulous job of the historical element and the quaker element was quirky. The plot, however, was middling though. I wanted more excitement.

  • Ron Charles
    2019-06-06 07:56

    Every few years, in the service of boosting or gutting public education, someone interviews high school seniors to demonstrate how little Americans know about their own history. Typically, from these studies we learn that Ben Franklin invented lightning or that Noah Webster saved the stars and stripes by collecting them two-by-two on the Arc de Triumph.Into this dark climate dares come a marvelous historical novel called "Voyageurs." Margaret Elphinstone garnered rave reviews in England last year, but in the American market, her book is a perfect storm for commercial disaster, a combination of conditions and subjects that could sink even the best writer: It's really long; it's set against the most obscure conflict in American history, the War of 1812; it takes place mostly in Canada; and it's narrated by an earnest Quaker.Abandon ship!Fortunately, the British publisher, Canongate, is relatively new to the American market or it might not have had the optimism to release "Voyageurs" here, and we would have missed this rich and moving novel.Elphinstone presents the story as a manuscript found in the attic of her house during remodeling in 2003. The author of these faded pages was a Englishman named Mark Greenhow, who begins, "I would be content even now were it not for my sister Rachel." And so we're drawn into this tale of reflection and adventure, back to 1809, when Mark and his parents received anxious, infrequent letters about Rachel's missionary work in the most remote forests of Canada.She was traveling with a devout aunt to spread the Light among the natives, but she fell under the spell of a slick fur trader named Alan McKenzie. When she married him, their Quaker society back home in England disowned her in abstentia, as she knew they would. But the next letter brings even more dire news: After losing her first baby, Rachel wandered into the Canadian wilderness and was never seen again.For Mark, this disaster culminates a lifelong burden of looking after his strong-willed sister. "She was never one to worry about the way back," he writes. "I knew, though, from early on, that it was my place to worry about it for her. Rachel expected that of me, and so did my parents; indeed, it is what I expected of myself."A letter from Rachel's husband, Alan, confirms that the case is hopeless, but Mark resolves to make the journey from England to Quebec and then on to the Great Lakes. As he moves into this territory, he also ventures into the thickly grown complexity of sibling affection and resentment."I was hugely, furiously angry with Rachel," he realizes one morning, shivering in a damp blanket. "All her life she'd asked me for things. All her life I'd taken what she dealt out. All her life I'd had to accommodate her, to live with her, rescue her, listen to her...." Then he must admit, "But I could never help admiring Rachel too."Almost all of the book concerns his remarkable, hopeless search for her. Mark covers half of Canada with a team of fur traders, men who paddle 40-foot canoes for 15 hours a day and carry 180-pound packs.If you're not an American high school senior, you may know that 1812 was a particularly dangerous time to be drifting around the Great Lakes. The United States was locked in a trade war that escalated into a real war against an uneasy alliance of British fur companies and hostile Indians. Amid the sound of war drums, Mark finds himself pursuing his sister in a political climate that's as treacherous as the forests that swallowed her.His voyage, of course, is both external and internal. "For the first time in my life I was standing on foreign soil," he writes, "and I was no longer sure of anything." His brother-in-law, Alan, is likable but duplicitous, a foil to his own plain-spoken honesty and Quaker ethics. Mark thinks he can move through this land under his brother-in-law's guidance without becoming entangled in Alan's military and financial intrigue, but that proves impossibly naive.Indeed, many of Mark's principles are tested in this dark wood. Elphinstone has created a humble and courageous hero, a man historically and culturally remote, but strikingly relevant to our own age of war. What's particularly wonderful about "Voyageurs" is the chance to linger in the company of someone struggling with his faith, his responsibilities to others and to God. And the modern irony that could have spiked this story remains at bay, even while touches of archaic diction render him all the more authentic.Confronted by warriors who torture their prisoners to death and soldiers from both sides who suspect spies everywhere, Mark finds his Quaker pacifism much harder to maintain than it was back on the farm in England. "I fear that I am no more than half a man," he writes, "having not the courage of my convictions."Slowly, he develops a broader sense of God's expression in the world. From the Indians, he learns to explore the mystical elements of his own faith tradition. And though he can be something of a humorless prig (the list of great Quaker comics is short), he eventually lets down his guard and experiments with a variety of small abominations, such as storytelling, poetry, music, and even humming (egads!). Like President Clinton, he smokes, but doesn't inhale; unlike President Clinton, he takes advantage of a young woman, but confesses sincerely.Ultimately, Mark doesn't find what he hoped for, but he doesn't fail in the way he feared he might. Through it all, he's so disarmingly honest that his whole story, told in this plain and simple style, serves as an arresting antidote for our own time, so hopelessly opposed to quiet reflection. A long book is always a risky trek into uncharted territory, but this is a guide worth following.

  • Robert
    2019-06-21 13:46

    You can also find my review of Voyageurs on my book blogVoyageurs is a novel about a Quaker from a community in North England who travels to Canada to search for his missing sister, around the time when the US and Britain / Canada were just about to go to war.It's a slow novel, enjoyable because it puts the reader in a different time, place and culture. Multiple cultures, really: our narrator is a quaker, but he spends time with voyageurs (fur traders), natives, settlers. For most of the book, you don't really know whether the main mystery will be resolved - the odds seem insurmountable. So it's the conflict between a devout pacifist and the various societies readying themselves for war which drives much of the tension. And, of course, the difficulties our narrator has with his own nature (which is somewhat less peace-loving and more capable of lust than he would like).It's a book with lots of description, quite a few scenes where people sit around and tell each other their life stories (but then, what else would they do when they are stuck with each other for a long time?), and a story which includes the odd moment of shock - but not necessarily tension. Big events happen, but there is rarely build-up. This all contributes to making it a slow read - I enjoyed it for its power of displacing me, and for a sense of a time and a world I had not really thought about very much. But it's definitely no thriller. It almost reads like a good novelisation of non-fiction events (i.e. similar to Nathaniel Philbrick's novels), even though it is pure fiction. That, I guess, is a testament to the attention to detail of the writer.

  • Deanna
    2019-06-10 14:01

    Rating: 4.5/5 starsI liked this story a whole lot. It is one of those stories that slowly and subtly drew me into the lives of the characters most especially into Mark's life. Through Mark, I was brought into the life of his sister, Rachel. With much interest, I wanted to know what happened to Rachel. I wanted to know her story. For me, Mark's stream of writing was mesmerizing. He included footnotes for which I gravitated towards. I was glad for them as they gave further insight into a location, person, event, etc. I felt the footnotes gave depth to the story while not taking away from the flow of the narration. I did enjoy reading of his interactions with the settlers, Indians and other Quakers. Mark, himself, became intriguing as I grew to love his manner of speech and thoughts along with his persistence and determination. Beyond Mark, what I really loved about Voyageurs was the setting and his travels.Voyageurs gave an incredible flavor of the Canadian geography during the early 1800's. Through Mark's travels I was given an idea of the hardships and beauty that surrounded those who lived during this time period, in this region. The story along with the map fed my incredible intrigue, and fascination with the geographical layout of the Great Lakes as I have forever pondered how people lived, and survived in this region without the conveniences of today.Voyageurs is a wonderful story that I really did love.My Full Review is at Polishing Mud Balls

  • Patricia Leslie
    2019-05-28 10:53

    I've just finished reading Voyageurs and was impressed from the start with the detail of the research that must have gone into this as well as the way that detail was shared with the reader. When next I go kayaking I will think of this story and the voyageurs paddling the rivers in Canada so long ago. A wonderful observation of their lives and the means and ways they lived them.Most of all I made a strong connection with the main character and his life philosophy shaped as it is by the Society of Friends. Such a simple philosophy of truth and the light of truth, yet even this was shown to be complex and wrought with factions; a reflection of the times the people were living through and the situations they were trying to survive.I thought the description of native life was interesting, thoughtful and not overdone with the whole "noble savage" treatment that still occasionally occurs in storytelling.I would have liked to know more about Rachel but as the story is so much from Mark Greenhow's point of view - what he knew we knew, and some things just can't be shared, or understood, between a sister and brother or a man and woman. I think I'll keep this one on my bookshelf to read again.

  • Gail Amendt
    2019-06-10 13:48

    As a Canadian, it seems strange to read a novel by a Scottish author about Canadian history, but this was very well researched and full of historical detail. The title is a little misleading, as the novel is not really about voyageurs, but more about the War of 1812, and the politics of what was then called Upper Canada. The main character does meet and travel with some voyageurs, but that is not the main focus of this novel. Mark Greenhow is a rather innocent and sheltered young Quaker from England when he sets out for Canada to search for his sister, who has gone missing in the wilderness after traveling there as a missionary and marrying a fur trader. Mark's peaceful Quaker faith is severely tested as he encounters cultures and beliefs very different from his own, and finds himself in the middle of a war. It is interesting to watch his spiritual growth as the story progresses. I can't go into much detail as I don't want to give the story away. This is a very wordy novel that can be slow going at times, which doesn't seem entirely consistent with a Quaker narrator accustomed to plain speech. It did, however, hold my interest throughout, even at a busy time when I didn't have much time or energy for reading, which is testament to the author's ability to tell a good story.

  • Ann
    2019-06-20 11:43

    I struggled to finish this book and skipped whole chapters which didn't seem to make any difference. I was disappointed that there was not more written about the actual Voyageurs, so the title is somewhat deceptive.

  • Timbo
    2019-06-21 16:03

    On opening this novel I felt as though I had stumbled upon some lost Robert Louis Stevenson masterpiece. As a narrator Mark Greenhow is as engagingly out-of-water as Davy Balfour, whilst Alan MacKenzie has more than a touch of Alan Breck, and the evocation of the North American wilderness might bring to mind the Master of Ballantrae. Stylistically Elphinstone also more than warrants the comparison; this is the literary novel as page-turner. The research is impressive but used judiciously, descriptions are evocative without being self-conscious, and psychologically the novel convinces. A thoroughly good read.

  • Fiona
    2019-05-28 10:53

    At first, I just loved this book. Mark is a young Quaker farmer living in Mungrisdale in Cumberland in the early 19th century. I spend a lot of my time in the Lake District so I loved all the references to the hills and towns. He talks about the Quaker Meeting House and I've passed it many times. Mark's sister, Rachel, disappears while in Canada. She had been cast out by the Quaker community as she had run off with a man (she wasn't particularly suited to the strictures of Quaker life anyway!). Mark travels to Canada to look for her. So far, so good. The book is very well researched. The descriptions of the sea journey, his arrival in Montreal, his shock at the scandalous behaviour of people - Quakers lived a very austere and simple life then and were made fun of by others - which eventually transforms into acceptance as he journeys into the interior with the voyageurs, the traders of the title. It is all very interesting but somehow, halfway through, I got bored with the pace and with Mark's theeing and thouing and general wonderment at everything. I'm giving it 3 stars on the grounds that it is well researched and interesting but doesn't have a gripping enough story to keep me with it. I haven't finished it but won't hand it in to the charity shop yet as I may well pick it up again in a couple of months if I can't live without knowing what happened to Rachel.

  • James (JD) Dittes
    2019-06-23 07:58

    I read this in advance of a road trip to the six Great Lakes, and I can't think of a better way to tour--or pre-tour in my case--this amazing part of North America.The historical novel is well-developed. It's not just voyageurs and fur traders that Elphinstone provides here, the central character is a Quaker, Mark Greenhow, and she provides insights into the unique religious culture of the Society of Friends.What I loved most was the settings. 1812-era Montreal comes to life. The reader climbs the Ottawa River, weathers portages around waterfalls, and slips down the Nipising River into Georgian Bay and on to Soult and Mackinac. Much of the action occurs in the Mackinac area, along islands in Lake Michigan and near the Sleeping Bear Dunes--all points of interest on any excursion into the area.If you live in upper Michigan, norther Ontario--or if you, like me, are planning a trip there. This book will provide a nice introduction.

  • LeAnne
    2019-06-06 08:42

    Beautifully written for local color and historical background. I picked this up because I live in the region. There is a restored North West Company fort a few miles from my house. My ancestors were Quaker, so the Quaker voice gave added interest. The story is good. The language is beautiful, but there is too much of it. I found myself skimming large sections and not missing any of the story line. When I finished, I realized that every potential conflict was too easily resolved so that there was never any sustained tension. Mark could forget the purpose of his journey was to search for Rachel and so could we. Except for one easily resolved scene, the War of 1812 remains in the background--something remote that people talk about. Dramatic scenery, dramatic people, but not dramatic story.

  • Emilian Geczi
    2019-06-11 15:39

    Looks like I'm in the minority here, but I was pretty disappointed with this book. In spite of the title of the book, the first voyageurs appear only at around page 140, and then drift in and out of the story as secondary characters. The description of their everyday lives is fairly thin. There are entire chapters devoted to the main characters' upbringing and adventures in England and Scotland, which were pretty difficult to get through in a book that's supposedly about voyageurs. Also, the book within a book within a book gimmick, and the narrator's unyielding morals, got pretty annoying after a while. Props for a good historical immersion in the time leading up to the War of 1812, but disappointing treatment of the voyageurs themselves.

  • Jobiska (Cindy)
    2019-06-05 07:54

    This sat on my to-read shelf for ages because I somehow mistakenly thought I had dipped into it and not gotten hooked. The minute I picked it up to try again, I realized I was mistaken, because I WAS immediately hooked. Being a Quaker, I would have remembered that the protagonist was a young Quaker man setting off on the adventure of his lifetime. The structure of the author purportedly finding a hidden journal and presenting it was original and kind of sneaky (in a good way)--it was so well done that I had to double check the front of the book where it says "A Novel," because I was almost certain that it was true, just from how well it was written!

  • Mrsgaskell
    2019-06-06 09:52

    This was a very readable novel set in Canada and the US at the time of the War of 1812. Mark Greenow is a young Quaker from the north of England who sails across to Canada in search of his missing sister Rachel. She had accompanied their aunt to do missionary work, and was disowned after she met and married a Scot fur trader Adam Mackenzie who did not belong to their sect. After the loss of her baby, she went missing in northern Michigan. Mark’s arrival at a time of war, his travels with the voyageurs, and encounter with the Indians challenge his strongly-held convictions.

  • Valerie
    2019-06-17 15:53

    A rich historical novel by Margaret Elphinstone. The story is set in the early 1800s and focuses on the journey of a courageous Quaker, Mark Greenhow, as he searches for his lost sister. Mark travels with the voyageurs who canoe the rivers of the Canadian wilderness trading with the French and British. The story takes Mark and the reader to a place and time hard to imagine without brilliant story telling and historial research. A satisfying read.

  • Dawn Woodward
    2019-05-27 13:42

    This was a great recommendation from another Goodreads user for our trip to Algonquin and Lake Huron in Canada. It was also set in many of the "up north" Michigan places I've vacationed since childhood. Just hours after I read about Mark hearing his first loon, I did as well :)Really loved the story, the characters and the insight into the politics of the region in the early 1800s as well as the Quakers of the time. An excellent read.

  • Adèle
    2019-06-01 13:05

    This is hands down my favourite book! It is amazing. Mark Greenhow really wrote this story, and with amazing accuracy. my family past is tied up in the French Canadian Voyageurs and it is worth the read for any Canadian. Such great detail, it feels as though you are living with the characters and seeing their story played out. Please read!! The first chapter is a little dry, but worth getting through. I learned a lot and definitely recommend for any history buff!!!

  • readmuchrunfar
    2019-06-18 14:40

    There was nothing bad about this book--it was nicely written, had a nice premise, was obviously meticulously researched...but I kept reading and waiting for something to happen. And waiting. And when something did, it was meh. But like I said, it was an interesting portrait of early 1800s Canada and Michigan. It's not a period of history I know much about, so that was good to read about.

  • Lesley
    2019-06-22 12:47

    A very detailed account of events in history of which I knew almost nothing. The book is very slow to start with but eventually warms up and the plot moved along quite well. I am not so sure about all the foot notes. It seems a clumsy way of adding more detail.

  • Mary
    2019-06-24 08:55

    slow but an interesting read. i learned more about the Quaker religion, early Michigan history-war 1812 era, voyageurs. introspective on the part of the main character. Great character development. Great discriptions of the times-life style, native anericans,build up to the war of 1812.

  • Garrett Tezanos
    2019-05-31 07:59

    I stopped reading Voyageurs. It's a pretty compelling story loaded with detailed historical information. It's not a good subway book for this reason, but would like to pick it up again someday to see how it ends.

  • Kate Barker
    2019-06-12 12:02

    A wonderful set of lead characters take the reader on an incredible journey from wild Cumbria into remote, historic Canada.

  • Eva
    2019-06-03 07:35


  • Ginger
    2019-05-30 11:41

    This is a beautiful book, in every sense. The author gives such wonderful descriptions of the land, and the characters are very interesting. I loved learning more about early Quakers.

  • janis
    2019-06-20 12:55

    slow start, and a little frustrating at first with the Quaker-style of speech, but well worth the read.

  • Bobby
    2019-06-03 12:40

    Well researched but very slow.

  • Jan
    2019-06-04 11:40

    I was really hooked by this book. Historical fiction set in Michigan Territory as the War of 1812 was beginning. The setting, the situation, and the characters all appealed to me.

  • Francine
    2019-06-08 14:44

    I loved this book! It takes place in Ontario in the early 1900s. They were Quakers and it deals with their life having to make choices and dealing with the things in a very young Canada.