When they were born on May 28, 1934, quintuplets Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Emilie, and Marie captivated the world, defying medical history with every breath they took. In an effort to protect them from hucksters and showmen, the Ontario government took custody of the quints, sequestering them in a private, custom-built hospital across the road from their family. Here, Sarah Miller reconstructs their unprecedented upbringing.
... an impeccably researched look into a cultural phenomenon, digging into the heart of a story surrounded by rumor and exaggeration. Relying on first-person accounts, journals, and transcripts, she uses direct quotes to great effect when describing the quintuplets, their parents’ struggle to retain any sort of authority over their care, the country doctor who insisted on government oversight of their livelihood, the many child-rearing experts who shaped the five young girls’ isolated environment, and, of course, the quintuplets themselves, who were raised apart from their family in the public eye. In many ways, this is a terribly sad story, but Miller resists sensationalizing, often emphasizing the necessity of sifting through exaggerated journal entries and reporting to find a kernel of the truth. Miller raises plenty of questions about child celebrity, government accountability, and journalistic integrity, and while some remain unanswered, there’s still plenty to ponder in this thorough, fascinating deep dive into the lives of five girls who captured the attention of millions. Photographs and extensive source notes round out this stellar work of nonfiction.
Miller tells the story chronologically with a succinct perceptiveness that is riveting in its detailing of well-meaning intentions turning to exploitation, and her inclusion of dialogue—drawn from contemporary materials—and photographs delivers a fresh feel. Notably, she individualizes the girls by always referring to them by name rather than lumping them together ... An altogether fresh, perceptive, well-written chronicle of this cautionary tale.
Miller presents multiple viewpoints with sensitivity, enmeshing the reader in the Dionnes’ lives so successfully that it is impossible not to feel the tragedy of the quintuplets’ lives. Black-and-white family photos and notes further expand this eye-opening, thoroughly researched title.