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At the end of the seventeenth century, on that "grey rock in the Canadian wilderness" known as Quebec, a French family, the Auclairs, begin a life very different from the one they knew in Paris.
On her mother's death ten-year-old Cecile is entrusted with the care of the household and of her father, Euclid, the town's apothecary.
Two years later, in 1697, as the red-gold autumn sunlight pours over the rock "like a heavy southern wine", Cecile and her father prepare for the long, difficult winter ahead with no word from home - news of the world they have left behind must wait until spring, when the annual boats from France are able to make their way up the St Lawrence.
For her father, it will be a painful exile, but for the young Cecile life holds innumerable joys as old ties are relinquished and new ones are formed ...
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