On the Proper Use of Stars

On the Proper Use of Stars

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
Rate this:
A sparkling, inventive debut novel inspired by Sir John Franklin's grand -- but ultimately failed -- quest to discover the Northwest Passage and by his extraordinary wife, Lady Jane.

Originally published in Quebec as Du bon usage des etoiles , Dominique Fortier's debut On the Proper Use of Stars is as fresh and imaginative as anything published in recent years. It weaves together the voices of Francis Crozier, Sir John Franklin's second in command, who turns a sceptical eye on the grandiose ambitions and hubris of his leader, and of Lady Jane Franklin and her niece Sophia, both driven to uncommon actions by love and by frustration as months then years pass with no word from the expedition. Fortier skilfully accents the main narratives with overheard conversations and snippets from letters and documents that bring two entirely different worlds -- the frozen Arctic and busy Victorian London -- alive.
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c2010.
ISBN: 9780771047626
Branch Call Number: FORTI
Characteristics: 269 p. : ill., music.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Jan 23, 2014

Sir John Franklin's wife would have been known as "Lady Franklin" not "Lady Jane" unless she herself was the daughter of an Earl, Marquis or Duke...(which I doubt).

brianreynolds Jun 20, 2011

There's a lot to recommend Fortier's novel, in my opinion. It's engaging, for one, and thought provoking. Her use of metaphor regarding Victorian manners and arrogance was generally effective and occasionally poetic. And she achieved some pathos regarding her main characters: Francis Crozier and Jane Franklin.

That said, I felt she missed a golden opportunity to flesh out the plot and provide greater form to her narrative. Relatively unconstrained by known facts, she had free rein to tease the reader about her characters. The jumble of narrative sections, journal entries, numerous points of view, historical manuscripts, and dramatic/poetry asides in no way enhanced the readability for me. Instead it gave it a faux historical resonance that undercut the power of the story.

And the story? Man fails. The futility of the situation is huge. Talk about <i>Waiting for Godot</i>! The setting is perfect, the cast could not be more uninformed and ineffectual, the cheerleads less attractive. What's lacking seems to be the hand of a master craftsman (a Vonnegut or Kinsella?) to twist the knife.

Jan 04, 2011

An OK historical novel about the ill-fated Franklin expedition to discover the Northwest Passage. I would have liked to have had a greater development of the story line on the explorers. Furthermore, the description of life in Victorian London (soirées of teas and discussions of types of lace etc.) through the characters of Lady Jane and her niece Sophia seem to be rather superfluous to the novel. Wayne Johnston's "The Navigator of New York", which is an historical novel about the race to the North Pole, I think, does a much better job of this.

debwalker Jan 03, 2011

"Enthralling novel based on Sir John Franklin's failed 1845 expedition to find the legendary Northwest Passage....The story leaves you both entertained and agonizingly aware of the tragedy that awaits the crew."
A Chatelaine top pick.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Subject Headings


Find it at JMS

To Top