Part historical narrative and part discussion of today's ""two Canadas,"" this is a most substantial overview of the French presence in North America. Holbrook's story, although detailed and occasionally slow-moving, nevertheless paints a panoramic mural of New France: intrepid explorers and military men (Champlain, La Salle, Montcalm) and the hardy habitants both had to contend with the venality of private investors and seigneurs. At the same time there was conflict between the Jesuits and the coureurs du bois who traded whiskey for furs, and lack of support from home (where Voltaire was saying, ""I much prefer peace to Canada"") led to erosion of the colony's defenses. Later Holbrook traces the gradual hardening of resentment over economic and linguistic domination through the uprising of 1838 and up to today--where we hear from Liberals, administrators of the new Language Act, and both violent and nonviolent Separatists. The interviewees are outspoken and, best of all, the author manages to communicate some of the more subtle cultural slights. It's a pity that a book of this scope should have no index; however, there is a bibliography of bilingual sources. A boon for English-speaking readers, for whom the French heritage is usually relegated to a footnote.