Tag Archives: julie berry

The Passion of Dolssa, by Julie Berry

passion-of-dolssaThree sisters grow up without a mother however they can. Eventually, they settle into a town in southern France and open a tavern together. The oldest brews the ale, the youngest tells fortunes, and the middle sister, Botille, is a matchmaker. When their elderly neighbor sends Botille on a journey to bring back her nephews, they meet a dying girl in the woods on their return trip. Dolssa is being pursued by a devout friar who is bent on purging the church of all heretics like her, those who think that they can speak to God themselves, without the intervention of a priest. By taking her in, the sisters are putting themselves and their entire village in mortal danger.

Books with a medieval setting are usually fantasies, it seems. However, this is a novel based squarely on history, and disputed history at that, which makes it even more intriguing. Julie Berry, author of the riveting All the Truth That’s in Me, begins by stating that history is written by the winners, but every so often, the underdog leaves enough evidence that we can begin to piece together the truth. In 13th century southern France, the Catholic Church allied with the king of France in the first Crusade in which Christians sought to kill other Christians. It was called the Albigensian Crusade, and the heretics were later called Cathars. However, Berry recently studied manuscripts that show that the Cathars are a construct created by historians, a mythical synthesis of several groups of believers who threatened the power of the institutional church. Men and women like Dolssa, however, were just devout believers who lived simple lives and ministered to the people in their communities. Following Berry’s hypothesis, however, means that ordinary men and women were also working miracles in Jesus’ name in 1209 in southern France. Let the reader decide.

When I began this beautiful tale, I had the luxury of calling my brother, a medieval scholar, and getting a quick, off-the-cuff summary of the history of southern France from 1209 to 1410. However, the book was written for teens and can be read as a compelling, transcendent story of the effect that one pure, extraordinary life can have on everyone she touches. Berry includes copious back matter: notes, glossaries, and bibliographies. The characters are perfectly relatable for twenty-first century readers, and the terrifying realization that a human being can be convinced—out of fear or love of money—to abandon a friend or neighbor to an unjust death is a truth that we see repeated over and over throughout history.

I loved this book. That’s the best recommendation I can give. There are so many things to think about and discuss in its pages, but most of all, it was just a great story. Very highly recommended for teens and adults.

_______________________

Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this book, but I handed out several of the library copies to other people, whether they asked for it or not. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Christian Life

All the Truth That’s in Me, by Julie Berry

ImageWhen eighteen-year-old Judith returns to her Puritan village two years after she disappeared, even her mother considers her a ruined young woman. After hearing Judith struggle unsuccessfully to tell her tale with the half a tongue that her captor left to her, her mother is so repulsed that she forbids her to try to talk. Judith knows that Lucas— the boy she has loved since they were both children— is lost to her forever, even though she can never tell him why. Her captor was his father.

One day, three ships show up in the harbor, and the village is under attack from the “Homelanders.” They have almost no ammunition, but every able-bodied man and boy prepares to defend the women and children who are sent to hide in the woods for at least temporary safety. Judith watches Lucas and her younger brother, Darrel, gather weapons, and when she sees the crates of gunpowder, she has a sudden memory of such boxes in the cabin where she was kept as a prisoner for so long. It becomes clear to her that Lucas’ father—who has been presumed dead for years— is the person responsible for stealing the town’s arsenal. Since she has no way to communicate her knowledge to others, she realizes with dread that she will have to risk her freedom and return to him to beg him to save the village, at least for the sake of his son.

Thus begins a terrifying and anguishing story of guilt and innocence, love and hatred, and above all, sad misunderstandings. Told in second person, Judith relates this tale directly to Lucas in her mind, hoping desperately that he will see beyond the conclusions that the town aldermen draw about her. Each time events seem to lead to a just conclusion, something else happens to bring the innocent into danger again.

One doesn’t usually think of a Puritan village as the setting of a thriller, but Julie Berry crafts this story brilliantly, slowly peeling back the truth and showing us that we, too, have made assumptions about Judith, her captor, and several other characters that turn out to be false. I came to care so deeply for Judith that at times I held my breath to see what would happen to her.

My friend, Valerie, has been leading the Printz Club at her library for years, and I will occasionally ask her what the club is loving at the moment. It was early in the publishing year that Val told me that her own current favorite was All the Truth That’s in Me and sent me an advance reader copy. I’m so glad she did! I can highly recommend this one to both teens and adults when it is available in September. You won’t be able to put it down.

Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this book. My opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews