Pelican Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)

Pelican Girls: A Novel By Julia Malye Cover Image
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A sweeping epic in the vein of Philipp Meyer’s The Son and Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and inspired by a true story, this stunning US literary debut captures the never-before-told journey of the Baleine Brides: a ship full of young women plucked from a Paris asylum and sent to marry settlers in North America's rough Louisiana Territory.

Paris, 1720. La Salpêtrière hospital is in crisis: too many occupants, not enough beds. Halfway across the world, France's colony in the wilds of North America has space to spare and needs families to fill it. So the director of the hospital rounds up nearly a hundred female “volunteers” of childbearing age—orphans, prisoners, and mental patients—to be shipped to New Orleans.

Among this group are three unlikely friends: a sharp-tongued twelve-year old orphan, a mute ‘madwoman,’ and an accused abortionist. Charlotte, Pétronille, and Geneviève, along with the dozens of other women aboard La Baleine, have no knowledge of what lies ahead and no control over their futures. Strangers brought together by fate, these brave and fierce young women will face extraordinary adversity—pirates, slavedrivers, sickness, war—but also the private trauma of heartbreak and unrequited love, children born and lost, cruelty and unexpected pleasure, and a friendship forged in fire that will sustain through the years.

At once a gorgeously written work of startling depth and emotion and a gripping drama marrying high-seas adventure with pioneer grit, Pelican Girls is a powerful, thought-provoking novel about female friendship and desire and the daunting compromises women are forced to make to survive.

About the Author

Julia Malye is the author of three novels published in France and works as a translator for Les Belles Lettres. At the age of twenty-one, she moved to the United States to study fiction writing and graduated from Oregon State University’s MFA program in 2017. Since 2015, she’s taught creative writing to hundreds of students at Oregon State University, the Sorbonne Nouvelle University, and Sciences Po Paris. Pelican Girls has been translated in twenty-five languages.

Praise For…

An Elle "Best and Most Anticipated Fiction Book. So Far" —

"Pelican Girls is a marvelous achievement, an immersive and moving novel, as beautifully written as it is impeccably researched. I haven’t been this swept away by a piece of historical fiction since Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet." — Jess Walter, bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins and The Cold Millions 

"A tale of female friendship unlike any I’ve come across before, Julia Malye’s inspired-by-a-true-story Pelican Girls is as incredible a feat of research as it is a daring work of fiction." — Elle

"To enter Julia Malye’s work is to be completely transported. Every detail in your vision, touch of fabric against your skin, pulse of blood through your veins, is rendered so lush and evocative that reading this novel feels like absorbing a lifetime of experience. The rare page-turner that both entertains and enlightens, Pelican Girls is an undeniable achievement of research, storytelling, and human compassion. One of the best historical novels you will ever come across; this book is an absolute gift." — M.O. Walsh, NYT bestselling author of My Sunshine Away and The Big Door Prize

"Epic and nuanced. . . .The three principal characters are richly drawn, and the author displays a formidable grasp on her historical setting. It adds up to a well-crafted story of women finding ways to survive against forbidding odds." — Publishers Weekly

"Stunning, moving, and remarkable. Pelican Girls is more than a novel, it’s an act of advocacy for human rights and for historical acknowledgment. Julia Malye has found a rich and compelling voice, unique to those who are experts in navigating between languages and cultures.” — Nguyen Phan Que Mai, internationally bestselling author of The Mountains Sing and Dust Child

"Pelican Girls is a feat of sublime imagination, every page a wonder. Malye has written an unforgettably rich and sensual novel—a triumph." — Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen and The Dog of the North

“This book fascinates me. It’s moving in every way: a celebration of complicity and love among women and a summary of their difficult lives. It has everything in it: a great story, landscapes, atmosphere, depth and a finely wrought prose. It makes you feel that you are reading one of those literary classics that make you believe in contemporary fiction again—told with spark and excitement, and with the freshness only a young writer can give. ” — Pilar Quintana, two-time finalist of the National Book Award, author of The Bitch and Abyss

“This richly imagined historical saga tells the story of three women, discarded by French society, who have little choice but to make new lives in a country thousands of miles away, married to men they barely know. As their lives intertwine again and again, Malye paints a vivid portrait of displacement and resilience, even as she lays bare the compromises her heroines must make and the ways they become complicit in the inequities of empire.”  — Anna North, Anna North, New York Times bestselling author of Outlawed

"Julia Malye's Pelican Girls is a richly layered, multi-character narrative of a long-overlooked period in history. More than that, however, it's an exploration of the varied—and often cruel—ways in which we experience both abandonment and agency. Haunting, heartbreaking, and harrowing, Malye's story is one of survival and perseverance; it is a look into the lives of women who've had everything taken from them but still manage to go on. " — Virginia Reeves, author of Work Like Any Other and The Behavior of Love

"Pelican Girls is the kind of book you lose yourself in. It blends the most engaging historical detail with a story so fresh and relatable it was impossible not to feel bound to these women as they journey into their brave new world. I am grateful to Malye for effortlessly introducing me to a piece of history I knew little of and a story which will linger long with me. A beautiful and heart-rending evocation of a haunted, and haunting, moment in history." — Jan Carson, award-winning author of The Raptures

Product Details
ISBN: 9780063299757
ISBN-10: 0063299755
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: March 5th, 2024
Pages: 368
Language: English