The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets

The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets

When they were born on May 28, 1934, weighing a grand total of just over 13 pounds, no one expected them to live so much as an hour. Overnight, Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie Dionne 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 five id...

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Title:The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets
Author:Sarah Miller
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets Reviews

  • Stacey

    I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I only knew a bit about the Dionne Quintuplets before reading this book by Sarah Miller. I was vaguely interested in the subject matter but adored Miller's earlier book "Caroline" a novelized version of the life of Caroline Ingalls, Laura Ingalls Wilder's mother. I was obsessed with the story of the Dionne quintuplets from the first page. The story itself is unbelievably compelling but the author's ability to craft t

    I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I only knew a bit about the Dionne Quintuplets before reading this book by Sarah Miller. I was vaguely interested in the subject matter but adored Miller's earlier book "Caroline" a novelized version of the life of Caroline Ingalls, Laura Ingalls Wilder's mother. I was obsessed with the story of the Dionne quintuplets from the first page. The story itself is unbelievably compelling but the author's ability to craft the story made it hard for me to step away from reading this book. If you know nothing about these quints they were born in the 1930s to a poor family who already had five children they could barely afford. The mother, Elzire was still in her early 20s. The odds are these children would not live as they were super tiny and no quintuplets had all survived previously. The fact that the world jumped into action to keep these babies alive by offering milk, incubators, and medical supplies. That is probably the only nice thing that happened to those five baby girls. From there the government became involved to keep them from being taken advantage of and in the process the government teamed up with the doctor who delivered them to take advantage of those girls. They went so far as to keep those girls locked up in a hospital where they were viewed twice a day by thousands of visitors. This seriously read like they were just animals in a cage at the zoo. I don't want to go further into details and honestly you can find most of this story out there online if you dig for it but Sarah Miller did an extraordinarily fine job of researching and writing this book. I couldn't read this fast enough. After reading this one I immediately bought "We Were Five" an out of print book written with the living sisters decades after the events in this book and I purchased Sarah Miller's book about Anastasia Romanov. I want more on the Dionnes and more books by this author.

  • Doris Vandruff

    Olivia and his wife Elzire were not aware that this latest pregnancy would change their lives forever. Elzire gives birth to quintuplets. Yvonne, Annette, Cicile, Emilie, and Marie. Each born in that order. They were born early and not expected to live. These babies would forever be known as the Dionne Quintuplets.

    Not only were multiple live births of this degree unheard of, they were also all still alive and that was extraordinary.

    What starts out as a paramount effort to keep the babies alive

    Olivia and his wife Elzire were not aware that this latest pregnancy would change their lives forever. Elzire gives birth to quintuplets. Yvonne, Annette, Cicile, Emilie, and Marie. Each born in that order. They were born early and not expected to live. These babies would forever be known as the Dionne Quintuplets.

    Not only were multiple live births of this degree unheard of, they were also all still alive and that was extraordinary.

    What starts out as a paramount effort to keep the babies alive, in later years is a disaster. No expense was spared to keep the babies alive. Milk was brought in, along as an incubator that worked with hot water. Indoor plumbing, electricity and such did not exist in the Dionne home. The wood stove was kept hot at all times for heating water and keeping the house warm. Eventually a hospital was built across the street for the babies. This is where the division of the home started. The quints from their parents and their other siblings. The Quints would stay in that sterile environment for the next nine years. Strangers were allowed to view the girls. Their parents, only if specific rules were followed. The siblings weren't allowed around their sisters for fear of contagion.

    The girls depended on themselves and the nurses that served them. There is no familial bond between their parents and siblings.

    When the young girls leave home. They are not ready for the real world. They have led such a sheltered life.

    Since the girls were born during the depression, they were a way of people forgetting their problems when they could focus their attention on this miracle of five duplicate babies. The children were exploited for tourism, movies, miscellaneous items that conveyed their likeness. Thousands of people travelled from around the world to see the famous quints. Some of the money did go into a trust for the girls. However, years later it would be found that thousands of dollars were "lost".

    This is an extraordinary story of five extraordinary babies that grew up to be extraordinary women. Through their struggles they were able to have a life afterwards.

    Wonderfully written! Excellent!

  • Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

    My father was just an infant when the Dionne quintuplets defied odds by surviving their birth in 1934. Their parents, Oliva and Elzire Dionne, were farmers who were doing just a little better than their neighbors, despite their six children. Elzire's pregnancy had been difficult, and even though it was expensive, she had consulted Dr. Dafoe, the local GP. When she went into labor two months early, the midwives consulted him yet again. When five babies, all very sm

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

    My father was just an infant when the Dionne quintuplets defied odds by surviving their birth in 1934. Their parents, Oliva and Elzire Dionne, were farmers who were doing just a little better than their neighbors, despite their six children. Elzire's pregnancy had been difficult, and even though it was expensive, she had consulted Dr. Dafoe, the local GP. When she went into labor two months early, the midwives consulted him yet again. When five babies, all very small, were born, he advised keeping them warm and handling them as little as possible, feeding them minute amounts of improvised formula and a little rum if they took a turn! Despite this, they survived, and their care was debated and mismanaged from the beginning. Because of an ill-advised contract with an American company to show them at the World's Fair, custody was given to the government. This helped with the massive amount of care that they needed, and a nursery building was built across the road. Unfortunately, the parents were denied access, at first under the guise that the children were medically fragile, and then just as a matter of course. This was an issue that was constantly fought, but Dafoe managed to triumph. Sadly, the girls were kept separate not only from their family, but from other children, and when they were finally returned to their family at the age of nine, it was difficult for them. Their father arranged for them to be educated by nuns with a few select children, and even their college education was very sheltered. This lead to problems in their later lives, and the girls never did feel at home with their family, which is not surprising, especially considering that their father was abusive. This book is a terrific overview of everything Dionne!

    Strengths: The average twelve year old has NO idea about the Dionne's and how impossibly famous they were at the time! This is a fascinating topic, and Miller covers it beautifully, from caring for the tiny babies to the swirl of tourism that surrounded them... until it didn't. Very complete, well researched, and engaging to read. I can't wait to have this on hand for my students who love nonfiction, and also for those who are up for something different!

    Weaknesses: I was expecting a novelization, similar to this author's Miss Spitfire, and I was envisioning a story told from the perspective of one of the quints (I was hoping for Marie!). It's hard to be disappointed when so much good factual information is laid out, but I think my expectation made it harder for me to process some of the nitty gritty details about custody and other legal issues. Still a great resource!

    What I really think: Definitely purchasing! I think that Ms. Miller should retell the story of Karen Killilea for modern middle grade readers. I don't know why that kept popping into my mind as I read this book, but I remember being enthralled with the book Karen when I was in middle school, but it is very long and detailed. It is interesting to see how people who were different were treated in the past!

  • Shannon

    The Dionne quintuplets is not something I was really familiar with when I started this, I had heard them brought up when talking about how reality TV effects kids but beyond that I knew nothing. These girls where signed over to the Canadian government to get out of a contract to be a side show in Chicago and what was supposed to be just two years turned into 9.5 years. Initially the goal of signing offer the girls to the government was to stop them from being exploited to the public however this

    The Dionne quintuplets is not something I was really familiar with when I started this, I had heard them brought up when talking about how reality TV effects kids but beyond that I knew nothing. These girls where signed over to the Canadian government to get out of a contract to be a side show in Chicago and what was supposed to be just two years turned into 9.5 years. Initially the goal of signing offer the girls to the government was to stop them from being exploited to the public however this happened anyway.

    This was a very easy to read book that I had a hard time putting down. With television and YouTube stars are putting more of their families out there for people to watch this is a way to see into the future of how this will effect the children in the long term. I felt this was a well researched book but wish there had been new interviews with the two still living quintuplets rather than having everything come from past interviews and books. She did an excellent job of showing both sides in the argument for keeping the girls separated from the rest of their family. It is simply heartbreaking that even after being reunited they were unable to fade into the background and have normal lives.

  • Nenia ⭐ Literary Garbage Can ⭐ Campbell

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    This is a fascinating and tragic story about five girls who basically ended up becoming a sideshow attraction as the wards of the Canadian government. The Dionne Quintuplets, as they came to be known, were five girls born to some low-income French-Canadians. They were two months premature and collectively weighed around

    . Nobody believed they would survive, at least, not all of them, but due to collective efforts from doctors and n

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    This is a fascinating and tragic story about five girls who basically ended up becoming a sideshow attraction as the wards of the Canadian government. The Dionne Quintuplets, as they came to be known, were five girls born to some low-income French-Canadians. They were two months premature and collectively weighed around

    . Nobody believed they would survive, at least, not all of them, but due to collective efforts from doctors and nurses and donations from interested third parties, an 18th century incubator that didn't run on electricity was obtained and the quintuplets survived through infancy, childhood, and beyond.

    Therein lies the rub-- their survival was part of what made them so famous, because healthcare back then was not great, especially for women's health and natal care. Quintuplets didn't survive. The girls were "kidnapped" (their words, and their parents') from their family and raised in the public view, raised up

    style for the paying public's admiration, or else kept in an enclosed play area while (also paying) onlookers observed,

    style.

    Eventually, the girls were given back to their family, parents Oliva and Elzire, but their parents were exhausted and resentful of the ordeal, and later, the girls claimed they weren't treated well. Elzire, their mother, allegedly looked for reasons to be short with them and occasionally used physical corrective methods. Oliva, on the other hand, they claimed sexually abused them, and made them terrified to be alone with them. A statement that the Dionnes' other children mostly denied, although it seems at least one of them had observed enough suspicious behavior to be slightly credulous.

    Reading this book was quite the rollercoaster. At first, I felt sorry for the parents, for the way they were mocked and made fun of by unsympathetic newspapers. Later on in the book, I read the girls' accusations against their parents with a shock that was like being splashed with cold water. I felt sorry for the girls, whose childhoods were essentially taken away from them; fame is a heavy burden for a child, especially when the guardians are the ones lining their pockets from the gains. Later in life, they also suffered-- not just from the abuse which may have taken place, but also from corrupt guardianship that resulted in their trustfund being leached by the government, their parents, the doctor who "saved" them and then took all the credit, and basically anyone else who had access to it and saw the girls' money as an easy write-off. They never got a break, and that is truly awful.

    I had heard references to the Dionne Quintuplets and seen some of the ephemera associated with them without actually recognizing what it was. There's also a

    episode that appears to mock the financial straits of the parents and greediness of their guardians, which I believe is called

    Reading this book gave me context for that. I think if you're interested in biographies and the effects of fame on children, you would be interested in this book, too. It's definitely not an easy read, emotionally, but I was too fascinated to put it down. Also, there are two sections of pictures, which I always enjoy in a nonfiction book about history. I had an ARC, so they were not super high quality (printed on thin paper), but I imagine they're going to look great in the finished copies, as even in this format, they were interesting to look at and looked fairly high quality.

    3.5 to 4 stars

  • Laura

    This seems to be the summer of the Dionnes, between

    and this book. During the SLJ Teen Live event the author mentioned that most YA readers won't have heard about them, which is true... unless they've heard Sondheim's "I'm Still Here" and looked them up. There's also been some coverage of them as the original "kidfluencers" but that may be escaping teen notice.

    This is NF and pretty well done. Because the Dionne family hasn't been all that forthcoming there's a lot of unknowns about the

    This seems to be the summer of the Dionnes, between

    and this book. During the SLJ Teen Live event the author mentioned that most YA readers won't have heard about them, which is true... unless they've heard Sondheim's "I'm Still Here" and looked them up. There's also been some coverage of them as the original "kidfluencers" but that may be escaping teen notice.

    This is NF and pretty well done. Because the Dionne family hasn't been all that forthcoming there's a lot of unknowns about their lives, especially life once the girls moved home and what their siblings thought/think. Their exploitation by everyone, from their doctor to their neighbors, is truly tragic. Equally tragic are the statements made later by several of the nurses in charge of their care as they realize the effects of their treatment on the family and the girls.

    eARC provided by publisher.

  • Letty

    3.5/5 This was a fascinating story about the Dionne Quintuplets. I didn't know much them but while reading, I did remember hearing something about them in the past. So sad that they were put on display at such a young age. I was surprised to learn that as of 2018 there are two surviving sisters. It would have been nice to have included pictures of the quintuplets in the book. Maybe they weren't included in the digital ARC I read. Having the internet readily available, though, it was quite easy t

    3.5/5 This was a fascinating story about the Dionne Quintuplets. I didn't know much them but while reading, I did remember hearing something about them in the past. So sad that they were put on display at such a young age. I was surprised to learn that as of 2018 there are two surviving sisters. It would have been nice to have included pictures of the quintuplets in the book. Maybe they weren't included in the digital ARC I read. Having the internet readily available, though, it was quite easy to view pictures of them there. What beautiful children! Overall, this was a very interesting and enjoyable read.

    Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.

  • Amanda Zirn Hudson

    3.5/5

    I found the lives of the Dionne Quintuplets shocking and I couldn’t stop reading. It’s true that their lives were both a miracle and a tragedy. I felt terrible for them, my heart ached.

    With that being said, this book seems like it should be an adult book, I am surprised this is for a 12+ audience.

    I did appreciate how the author seemed to take a somewhat neutral stance to narrating the Quint’s early childhood. You felt terrible for the parents but you could also see the importance of keep

    3.5/5

    I found the lives of the Dionne Quintuplets shocking and I couldn’t stop reading. It’s true that their lives were both a miracle and a tragedy. I felt terrible for them, my heart ached.

    With that being said, this book seems like it should be an adult book, I am surprised this is for a 12+ audience.

    I did appreciate how the author seemed to take a somewhat neutral stance to narrating the Quint’s early childhood. You felt terrible for the parents but you could also see the importance of keeping the children safe when they were first born. I really felt for the parents but as the book progressed I started to dislike them immensely while also still feeling bad for them at times. It takes a lot of talent to present information in such a way to have the reader continually going back and forth between sympathy and extreme dislike for the people they’re reading about.

    I’m glad this book is being published, more people need to know about the Dionne Quintuplets.

  • Dawn Michelle

    1. I have read in other reviews that this is like an expose of what really happened with the Dionne Quints. I have to disagree vehemently. What I just read is more like tabloid fodder than a nonfiction biography of sisters who never knew normal. It is shocking and appalling and I am horrified that both an editor and a publisher is letting this be "given to the masses" as truth. This just reeks of profit and greediness and more exploitation of a family that has known nothing but that in their who

    1. I have read in other reviews that this is like an expose of what really happened with the Dionne Quints. I have to disagree vehemently. What I just read is more like tabloid fodder than a nonfiction biography of sisters who never knew normal. It is shocking and appalling and I am horrified that both an editor and a publisher is letting this be "given to the masses" as truth. This just reeks of profit and greediness and more exploitation of a family that has known nothing but that in their whole lives. Shame on this publisher and shame on the writer.

    2. This is not a YA book. It is a book of nonfiction [and I use that term loosely, but we will get to that] that absolutely could be read by anyone. There is NOTHING in this book to indicate that it is specifically for the age group of YA and is misleading. Very few YA readers would find this intriguing - it is in many chapters, a dry read and also is very, very, repetitive. You have no doubt, by the end of the book, who you are supposed to feel sorry for [shocker, it is NOT the quints] because it is hammered at you over and over again [see #4].

    3. WHERE. ARE. THE. FOOTNOTES? Where is the source material sited? She lists the books she uses and she does have somewhat of a note section [but without footnotes and a bibliography, HOW do you even follow this?]. The author tries to absolve herself of this in a "note on the dialogue" and assures the reader that "she has not invented any of the dialogue in this book. Everything rendered in quotation marks can be traced to diaries, correspondence, books, newspapers, magazines, newsreels, or film documentaries". Well, that is ALL well in good to state that, but without full source material and footnotes, how can we check that? We cannot. We have to rely on the word of the author [many of the conversations that appear in this book seem as if the author herself was talking with the Quints or their family or the nurses etc, which would be impossible in MANY cases, and is very misleading]. She also states that a note of caution must be used [and this is the HUGE red flag for me and what makes me think this is much more for sensationalism and monetary gain than anything else] in regards to the conversations she has "re-created". Uh, yeah. No kidding. When you abridge conversations or, in my opinion, INVENT conversations, to further your book along, you are no longer writing a nonfiction book and have moved into the fiction world.

    4. This is a book of great bias. There seems to be no attempt to be unbiased and in my opinion, the author almost delights in her bias. It is only towards the end of the book, after the parent's have died, that the bias leaves and she truly focuses in on the Quints themselves and what they truly may have suffered. While both sides are culpable and the Ontario government DID overstep their bounds tremendously, the parent's [mostly because of the father's doing] ALSO capitalized on their daughters [and ultimately, even the mother was guilty of using her daughters to get the response she wanted from the people] and all of the blame cannot be laid at the Ontario governments feet. The fact that the girls, when they were moved as babies, were literally across the street [400 yards] from where they were born and that the parent's had FULL access to them [something they chose not to utilize due to the strictness of the nurses - uh, they were QUINTS. In 1934. It is a miracle they lived to begin with. The nurses and the schedule and the avoidance of germs and illness was wise {in the beginning. It DID get out of control as they got older} and I think the parent's chose ignorance so they could garner sympathy rather than listen to the Drs and educate themselves on just WHY the girls needed round-the-clock care] and chose to basically ignore them speaks volumes to me. The fact that the author does nothing to hide the fact that she sides with the parent's is disturbing and again, in my opinion, unprofessional as an author of nonfiction.

    5. I will be looking for other books on the Dionne Quints. Hopefully one that has more source material and footnotes. I think this might have worked better as a book of historical fiction as it seems more like that than a book of nonfiction.

    Thank you to NetGalley and to Random House Children's/Schwartz and Wade for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  • Nicole Brinkley

    The strange story of the Dionne Quintuplets—sisters, medical miracles, and Canada's most successful tourist attraction—captivates and devastates in equal measure. A great bit of fast-paced narrative nonfiction.

    ​​​The strange story of the Dionne Quintuplets—sisters, medical miracles, and Canada's most successful tourist attraction—captivates and devastates in equal measure. A great bit of fast-paced narrative nonfiction.

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