There was a line in Thirty Acres that I couldn’t get out of my head – and it took me over a week to find it again because it wasn’t one of the pages I had earmarked to come back to but in the end it was the one I most wanted to talk about:
The family had grown. Every woman must bear her allotted number and Alphonsine did not fail to do so. After Qguinase, and Helena, who died, and Etienne, came Ephrem; then a little girl who only lived long enough to be baptized; then Malvina; then another child who died before it was many months old; then Eva; and finally Lucinda, still in her cradle. A tenth child was expected. These births occurred regularly, so regularly that they could almost be used to reckon the years. (p. 75-76)
It is that one sentence: Every woman must bear her allotted number… that really had me thinking. I’m pretty sure it was mentioned more than once in the book too . Yes, I know WHY people had so many children back then. But even Ringuet makes it clear that having that many children is more a burden than anything else – the farm can’t feed that many and certainly can’t provide enough work for all the male children who do live which I suspect caused a lot of bitterness in families. So while not the most exciting book in the world I did enjoy it and it gave me a lot to think about. There is a lot you can learn from Thirty Acres about the way of life for the French farmer and how things don’t really change from one generation to the next – this is made obvious by how each generation thinks: when they are young, that they know better than the next how to farm if only the older generation would get out of the way. I’m sure this is true for every generation no matter what their occupation – and then once they are the older generation they have no time to listen to the younger generation because they don’t know anything and things were different back then.
However, the biggest thing I am taking away from this book is: thank the gods for birth control! Because my allotted number is not going to be determined by how many babies I can push out until my body gives up (which is what happens to Alphonsine). Isn’t modern science grand? Besides, I have no desire to be part of a reality TV show.
Death Toll: Too many to count: the book spans generations and, of course, many children don’t live long.