Tuesday, March 5, 2019

My take on: The Quintland Sisters

History is filled with all sorts of disturbing, sad, and weird moments. In her new book, The Quintland Sisters, Shelley Wood details one of those such moments. Yet again I'm reading the fictional account of a real event.

The Dionne Quintuplets were born in Ontario in 1934, to a poor family already struggling to support five other children. Born premature and at a time before more advanced medical treatments were available, the five girls were not expected to survive. Early on, their treatment was more about making them comfortable before they died. But they survived. Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Marie, and Emilie survived and thrived. How they survived and the people who surrounded them has long been a source of controversy.

This fictional account is told through the eyes of one of their nurses, Emma Trimpany, who was just 17 when she assisted in their birth. It's through the quintuplets that Emma finds her true calling. Born with a port-wine birthmark on her face, Emma was convinced that people looked down on her because of her looks. Because of that perceived judgment, Emma didn't believe she would find her purpose professionally or personally. But she bonds instantly with her young charges, and finds her purpose in life. Led by Dr. Dafoe, Emma and her fellow nurses become the primary caregivers for the girls. Mr. and Mrs. Dionne fought to get custody of their girls back, but money, greed, and the Canadian government got in the way. Dr. Dafoe quickly realized what a gold mine Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Marie, and Emilie could be for him professionally and personally. A special hospital/nursery, complete with playgrounds, was built to house the girls. The Dionnes did have some input over their well-being, but not enough in my opinion.

"Quintland", the nickname for the hospital, drew thousands of tourists who came to gawk at the girls and it also drew thousands of revenue. Product endorsement deals and film opportunities soon outweighed any thoughts of reuniting the girls with their family. While Emma didn't agree with every decision made, she was not in favor of returning the girls to the Dionnes. Emma only sees how a custody change will impact her personally. She can't fathom how painful it must be for a parent to be told when, where, and how they can interact with their own children.

In my view, "Quintland" was basically a fishbowl cut off from reality. The Dionnes were portrayed as angry and uneducated. Maybe they were, but that doesn't justify breaking up their family. The Dionne Quintuplets were cared for but they were also exploited by sooooooo many people. I think Shelley Wood did a good job of portraying what the atmosphere was like back then, I was thoroughly engrossed!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours


  1. Whoa, that sounds fascinating! I'd never heard of the Dionne Quintuplets before, but apparently two of them are still alive! Now I'm fascinated. Thanks for spotlighting this book, I'm definitely intrigued.

  2. I hadn't actually heard of this one yet but it sounds really great and would be an excellent book club pick. Thanks for being on the tour!

    Sara @ TLC Book Tours