Books·Canadian

The Quintland Sisters

A novel by Shelley Wood.

Shelley Wood

Shelley Wood's novel tells the story of the Dionne Quintuplets, the world's first identical quintuplets to survive birth, told from the perspective of a midwife in training who helps bring them into the world.

Reluctant midwife Emma Trimpany is just 17 when she assists at the harrowing birth of the Dionne quintuplets: five tiny miracles born to French farmers in hardscrabble Northern Ontario in 1934. Emma cares for them through their perilous first days and when the government decides to remove the babies from their francophone parents, making them wards of the British king, Emma signs on as their nurse.

Over 6,000 daily visitors come to ogle the identical "Quints" playing in their custom-built playground; at the height of the Great Depression, the tourism and advertising dollars pour in. While the rest of the world delights in their sameness, Emma sees each girl as unique: Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Marie and Émilie. With her quirky eye for detail, Emma records every strange twist of events in her private journals.

As the fight over custody and revenues turns increasingly explosive, Emma is torn between the fishbowl sanctuary of Quintland and the wider world, now teetering on the brink of war. Steeped in research, The Quintland Sisters is a novel of love, heartache, resilience and enduring sisterhood — a fictional, coming-of-age story bound up in one of the strangest true tales of the past century. (From HarperCollins)

From the book

May 28, 1934

If I don't write this down this very minute, or as much of it as possible, I will forget half of it, or something will happen — one of them will die — and everything I might have written will be changed by that, instead of the way it feels now.

The doctor has just left and everyone else seems to have more or less forgotten about me. Marie-Jeanne asked him if he'd drop me off back in Callander, but before he could answer, I asked if I could stay and the doctor nodded curtly, then headed out to his car. Now Marie-Jeanne and Mme. Legros are busying themselves heating chicken broth on the stove for Mme. Dionne, who is finally starting to stir again. M. Dionne has gone to find the parish priest. He tore off in his own truck, the door slapping closed behind him as if the house itself had done something wrong. Poor M. Dionne. He had been pacing the front porch, back and forth, back and forth, until the doctor finally asked him to step back inside and told him about the babies. His expression made him look like a face from the funnies, stretched wide and delirious with disbelief.


From The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood ©2019. Published by HarperCollins.

Interviews with Shelley Wood

When the Dionne quintuplets were born in in a tiny village in northern Ontario, they became the darlings of the world. Then they became a spectacle. Writer Shelley Wood has crafted a fictionalized account of their early years, "The Quintland Sisters." 29:27

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