STARRED REVIEW
April 12, 2016

Dangers and delicate magic in medieval France

By Julie Berry
Review by

In 13th-century France, the Catholic Church is hell-bent on eradicating heresy. Unfortunately, their definition of heretics includes the bons omes and bonas femnas—saintly aesthetics who are devoted to God but not necessarily to the Catholic Church. Persecution of these wandering souls is top priority for the Church.

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In 13th-century France, the Catholic Church is hell-bent on eradicating heresy. Unfortunately, their definition of heretics includes the bons omes and bonas femnas—saintly aesthetics who are devoted to God but not necessarily to the Catholic Church. Persecution of these wandering souls is top priority for the Church.

For Botille Flasucra, who is eking out a living with her two sisters in a tiny village, these meddlesome inquisitors seem remote. While on an errand to another village, Botille rescues a dying girl she finds lying in the woods. This is Dolssa, an ethereal mystic who has an intimate relationship with Jhesus. Dolssa is pursued by Lucien de Saint-Honore, an inquisitor charged with burning Dolssa alive. Although the Flasucra sisters strive to keep Dolssa hidden, her proclivity to perform miracles soon makes Dolssa the talk of the village.

The story is told from multiple points of view: Lucien, Botille, Dolssa and well-chosen witnesses that flesh out hidden facets of perspective. Botille, in particular, is a wonderful narrator. She is amused by village life as only a teen can be, infusing the story with her dry humor. She is our compass, shaping our understanding of Dolssa’s mysticism as well as the ruthless persecution espoused by the dominant religious power of the day.

As in her debut novel, All the Truth That’s in Me, Berry’s writing is stunning. Poetic, insightful and, at times, deeply disturbing, Dolssa’s story is steeped in 13th-century sensibilities yet so relatable to 21st-century readers. Berry includes a map, glossary and extensive source notes.

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The Passion of Dolssa

The Passion of Dolssa

By Julie Berry
Viking
ISBN 9780451469922

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