Intentionally Flooded and Buried Town in “The Sentimentalists” Based on True Story

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The new award-winning book, The Sentimentalists, features the fictitious town of Casablanca, Ontario, Canada, which has been intentionally flooded, and submerged and, well, buried under water, as part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway project, back in 1958. While the town of Casablanca is not real, the fact that ten towns were actually intentionally flooded, submerged, and forever buried under water is all too real. Yes, the St. Lawrence Seaway project actually killed 10 towns. Known as “The Lost Villages”, the flooded and buried villages were Aultsville, Dickinson’s Landing, Farran’s Point, Maple Grove, Mille Roches, Moulinette, Santa Cruz, Sheek’s Island, Wales and Woodlands.

The background is that as the construction of the Moses Saunders Power Dam was being planned, negotiations to relocate the families who lived in the ten villages were underway. In the end, these families were compensated, and relocated, and their villages went to a watery grave.

The negotiations weren’t all smooth, however. Many felt that the value of real estate had been depressed by the upcoming construction of the dam and the Saint Lawrence Seaway, and the compensation awarded to those relocated was based on those deflated property values.

In any event, it is the history of the Lost Villages that gave birth to Skibsrud’s flooded Casablanca, as one of her main characters, a Vietnam vet, is relocated to the shore of the lake that is Casablanca’s final resting place, by his daughter.

The critical reviews of the book, which is a first novel, have been superlative (if often with the caveat “for a first novel”), while reader reviews have been mixed. Frankly, we think that the reason that Skibsrud’s novel one the coveted Giller Prize is because it treats the issue of the Lost Villages as an integral underlying theme, but that’s just our hunch.

You can get The Sentimentalists from Amazon, where you can buy The Sentimentalists in hard copy or a version of The Sentimentalists for Kindle

You can read more about the Lost Villages here.

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