The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

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HarperCollins, 2016. ISBN 9781460752036
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Inquisition. Middle Ages. France - History. Miracles. Dolssa de Stigata is a deeply religious girl who believes that she must preach. Persecuted by the Inquisition and hunted by Dominican Friar Lucien, she flees for safety and is found by Botille, a matchmaker in a small seaside town. Hidden in Botille and her sisters' inn, Dolssa talks to God and begins to help the villagers. But danger stalks all of them.
This is an outstanding piece of historical fiction. Berry brings the period and the characters to life - the deeply religious Dolssa and her belief in God, the Friar Lucien who believes that Dolssa is a heretic, and the three sisters struggling to make a living in a poor inn. There is humour and heartbreak as Berry describes the daily life of the villagers, their love and needs, as well as the horror of the Inquisition that hangs over ordinary people and leaves a sense of impending danger throughout the story. Botille is a courageous young woman and her narration brings both tears and laughter to the reader.
At the back of the book Berry gives an historical note, writing that the historical setting is real and that 'Dolssa de Stigata's story is based on the lives of several medieval female mystics'. There is more information about the period and a glossary adds to the authenticity of the narration.
This is a demanding and engrossing read, beautifully written, that vividly describes the life and beliefs of the Middle Ages. For readers who have problems with the ending, Berry has written a piece on her home page: About the Ending: Unraveling The Passion of Dolssa not to be read until the reader has finished the book.
Pat Pledger