This tale was published in 1931. Willa Cather's Shadows on the Rock tells the tale of a young girl, her widower father, and their friends, all of them working to make a life for themselves in Quebec in 1697.
“Shadows on the Rock” is a historical novel which takes place between 1697 and 1713 in Quebec. For a number of years after the French first settled Quebec, it was an isolated, rocky settlement where many of the inhabitants struggled to survive in the harsh climate.
The people tightly clung to the Catholic Church’s interpretation of events and distrusted anyone who differed in this world-view. Frequent prayer and church services were the rule.
One afternoon late in October of the year 1697, Euclide Auclair, the philosopher apothecary of Quebec, stood on the top of Cap Diamant gazing down the broad, empty river far beneath him. Empty, because an hour ago the flash of retreating sails had disappeared behind the green island that splits the St. Lawrence below Quebec, and the last of the summer ships from France had started on her long voyage home.
As long as La Bonne Espérance was still in sight, many of Auclair's friends and neighbours had kept him company on the hill-top; but when the last tip of white slid behind the curving shore, they went back to their shops and their kitchens to face the stern realities of life. Now for eight months the French colony on this rock in the North would be entirely cut off from Europe, from the world. This was October; not a sail would come up that wide waterway before next July. No supplies; not a cask of wine or a sack of flour, no gunpowder, or leather, or cloth, or iron tools. Not a letter, even—no news of what went on at home. There might be new wars, floods, conflagrations, epidemics, but the colonists would never know of them until next summer. People sometimes said that if King Louis died, the Minister would send word by the English ships that came to New York all winter, and the Dutch traders at Fort Orange would dispatch couriers to Montreal.