Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Queen of Hearts by Martha Brooks

Queen of Hearts is a coming of age story set in the 1940's when tuberculosis and TB sanatoriums were a significant part of twentieth century life. Marie-Claire Cote is a headstrong 15 year old who contracts TB from a beloved uncle. She is sent "chase the cure" at Pembina Hills San along with her younger brother and sister who have also become ill with TB. At Pembina Hills she is placed in a room with Signy, a young woman like herself but whom she finds annoying and needy. Signy has been at the San for years now and has suffered through many different procedures in an attempt to beat her TB. All Marie-Claire wishes to do though, it to get out of the San and get on with her life. In typical teenage ways, she doesn't care much about Signy, who has been abandoned to the sanatorium by her wealthy parents.  Marie Claire discovers that the sanatorium has a life all its own, with patients who marry and people who are cured who come back to work there. She gradually understands that she must learn to be a "patient patient". During her time there, Marie-Claire begins to mature and even falls in love.

This book provided a fascinating glimpse into a era that passed away only a decade before I was born. I remember asking my parents about the local sanatorium with its huge windows. This era ended with the widespread use of antibiotics which cured TB.
I have to say that throughout most of the book the character, Marie-Claire was not a likeable one. In fact, I had most decidely disliked her but then suddenly she grew up and seemed to change at the end. This was reflected in her decision at the end of the book which redeemed her in my eyes.

I'm not sure how attractive this book will be to ordinary teen readers, but those who like historical fiction will enjoy this short Canadian novel by acclaimed author and playwright, Martha Brooks.

1 comment:

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