On the Proper Use of Stars

Publisher: Emblem Editions
A sparkling, inventive debut novel inspired by Sir John Franklin's grand — but ultimately failed — quest to discover the Northwest Passage and by his extraordinary wife, Lady Jane.

Originally published in Quebec as Du bon usage des etoiles, Dominique Fortier's debut On the Proper Use of Stars is as fresh and imaginative as anything published in recent years. It weaves together the voices of Francis Crozier, Sir John Franklin's second in command, who turns a sceptical eye on the grandiose ambitions and hubris of his leader, and of Lady Jane Franklin and her niece Sophia, both driven to uncommon actions by love and by frustration as months then years pass with no word from the expedition. Fortier skilfully accents the main narratives with overheard conversations and snippets from letters and documents that bring two entirely different worlds — the frozen Arctic and busy Victorian London — alive.


From the Hardcover edition.

READ AN EXCERPT

The sun was shining on that 19th day of May in 1845 when the Erebus and the Terror were preparing to cast off at Greenhithe, their reflections shivering on the greenish water of the port where floated garlands, handfuls of rice, and small dead fish. A crowd of a good ten thousand was assembled on the docks to...
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READING GUIDE

1. Many readers and reviewers have noted that On the Proper Use of Stars brings a strikingly new perspective to a story we all thought we knew. Were you familiar with the tale of the Franklin expedition before reading the novel? What is the most surprising aspect of the story as it is presented in the novel?

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PRAISE FOR

"Captivating. . . . Fortier’s clever, confident prose and Fischman’s flawless translation [shift] effortlessly between the comedy of manners of London society and the Gothic romance of the Artic wilderness. . . . The novel pulses with adventure and originality, and brims with promise for this gifted new voice in fiction." 
 — National Post

"Immensely entertaining and well-researched. . . . Fortier injects warm human blood, romance and beauty into the frigid, stark and heartbreaking old story we all thought we knew." 
 — Gazette (Montreal)

"Debut novelist Dominique Fortier – beautifully translated by Sheila Fischman – takes a new approach [to the Franklin story]: She chooses elegance . . ." 
 — Toronto Star

"Rich [and] clever. . . . [The novel] is poetic and elegiac about the lost and those left behind." 
 — Winnipeg Free Press

"Told in utterly original fashion, a historical novel with wit and fascination. Fans of Arctic literature will not want to pass on this one." 
 — SunTimes (Owen Sound)

"[Fortier’s] first novel is a shimmering hall of mirrors in which the Northwest passage relects dreams of glory that will be fatally shattered." 
 — L'actualité

"With this uncommonly mature debut novel, Dominique Fortier strikes out for the furthest poles: for heroism, love, and plum pudding. Inspired by a story we thought we knew, she creates a unique and brilliant tale that navigates skilfully between dread and dream."
— Nicolas Dickner, author of Nikolski

"Wow! Double wow!" were my first words upon reading On the Proper Use of Stars. And what a great title! Especially when we understand its meaning, or rather when, all of a sudden, between two pages, it takes on its full significance and goes straight to the heart of those who allow themselves to be romantics. And to dream. Of love. Of adventure. A film is coming. Epic and Victorian! But first, to be read for the elegance of the style and the storytelling ability of this young writer, who made me want to sail away and explore . . . two worlds: one of ice, the other of lace; of tea, and salt water."
— Jean Marc-Vallée, director of The Young Victoria

"Enthralling. . . . The story leaves you both entertained and agonizingly aware of the tragedy that awaits."
— Chatelaine





From the Hardcover edition.