October 05, 2011

When Breaks the Dawn by Janette Oke

When Breaks the Dawn is the third novel in Janette Oke's Canadian West series. I found that this book was much improved over the second in the series and just as good as the first.

This installment starts out exactly where the second book left it, at the trader's and his wife's return to the settlement with much needed supplies. Unlike the other books however, this one covers several years instead of just one year.

Elizabeth has largely adjusted to living life in the frigid North and with her friend Nimmie starts a school for the children of the settlement. While it does not catch on quickly she finds a few willing students to learn all she has to teach. One of these in particular, a little girl named Susie, actually lives with Elizabeth and Wynn for awhile and gives them a taste on what it is like to have children.

Susie wouldn't be the only child they would take care of in the book however. They also adopt a baby from a man who's wife has died and spend a whole year with him, learning to love them as their own. Sadly, this does not last for very long.

In this book as well is a slight description of an action scene. Wynn must go out in the cold to track down a bootlegger and murderer. While we are not introduced to the scene firsthand, he relives it for Elizabeth when he arrives back home. I was actually surprised to find this in the novel as most of the books by Oke I have read have very little conflict between person and person rather than person and elements.

As far as plotlines go there isn't really a set plotline for this novel. It more just chronicles their life over about 3-4 years and how they survive. If I were to say the book had anything resembling a plot line, I would more say it had a theme; Elizabeth's infertility. A big part of the book is written about Elizabeth's feelings and actions at being unable to conceive a child. It was written with a lot of emotion and having never experienced those issues myself as of yet I can't say whether they were accurate descriptions of the emotions involving infertility, but they seemed genuine to me.

I found a lot of things improved in this book over the second one in the series. For starters, Elizabeth becomes her strong independent self again. There is no simpering and acting like a child whose husband has to guide her in every step. Also, Oke tones down the preachiness and instead reverts to her Christian values as they were in the first book, lead by example, not by sermon.

Oke's writing as always is very homey and clear. Her books are pleasant with nothing that would be considered offensive. This book, like the others in the series, is written from Elizabeth's perspective.

Oke's characters are very believable in this book. She tries to give the reader a glimpse at the struggle for Elizabeth between the Indian and English languages and shows her attempts at translation. She also makes her characters have faults rather than be perfect at all times. Since it is a Christian novel, the characters themselves actually reflect on their own sins.

Overall I did enjoy this book. It wasn't as good of a plot line as the first but it definitely improved on the second book. As a reader I enjoyed it and it's one of those books where if you don't want to, you don't have to think too hard about the message, you can just read for enjoyment.

When Breaks The Dawn
Copyright 1986
223 pages

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