The Passion of Dolssa

The Passion of Dolssa

A Novel

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
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In mid-thirteenth century Provence, Dolssa de Stigata is a fervently religious girl who feels the call to preach, condemned by the Inquisition as an "unnatural woman," and hunted by the Dominican Friar Lucien who fears a resurgence of the Albigensian heresy; Botille is a matchmaker trying to protect her sisters from being branded as gypsies or witches--but when she finds the hunted Dolssa dying on a hillside, she feels compelled to protect her, a decision that may cost her everything.
Publisher: New York : Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2016
ISBN: 9780451469922
0451469925
Branch Call Number: FICTION Ber
Characteristics: 478 pages ; 22 cm

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The Passion of Dolssa

Three young sisters with a thieving past, Botille, Plazensa and Sazia were wanderers, surviving by any means necessary, moving from place to place once they wore out their welcome. The three sisters and Jabau, Sazia’s father, traveled to the French seaside town of Bajas, where for once they put down roots and became if not quite respected, still valuable residents. (more)


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c
Chernov
Oct 16, 2017

This book was amazing! I loved the characters, the plot, the writing style, everything. It's beautiful and tragic and realistic. It's such a good read and I highly recommend.

JCLChrisK Aug 08, 2017

Just what all the cool kids are craving in a light read these days: a dejecting story about the persecution of a medieval mystic.

Except that description, while superficially accurate, hardly captures the experience of reading this book. A number of narrators' voices are woven together to create the story, with the largest role by far played by Botille, a warm, witty, earthy, and slightly bawdy matchmaker who runs a tavern with her two sisters in a small seaside town. She's full of life and vigor, and so is her vibrant storytelling. Through her, we get a wonderful glimpse into what life would have been like in that time and place.

And don't think that "persecution" means a bunch of theological debates and dogmatic trials. This is a desperate flight across the countryside, intriguing detective work, lies, covert operations, and a wealth of suspense. Involving the inquisition--you know, crusades and public executions with fire and all that. And the mystics Dolssa is based upon, as author Berry explains in her historical note at the end, "took the idea of Jesus as their husband or lover quite seriously; in fact, many spoke of Jesus in passionate, sexual terms that would make modern readers blush."

This is an absorbing and powerful tale.

abruzzo79 Jun 06, 2017

Relevant for our time - the personal cost of cruel discrimination. Engaging writing, too!

kirstd31 Mar 31, 2017

I was very excited to read this book. The story was interesting and I liked how it was told from the different characters perspectives. I do not want to ruin the story for anyone, but I was not pleased with the ending.

multcolib_susannel Feb 13, 2017

During a time when heretics are burned at the stake, three sisters hide a girl who says she talks to Jesus.

d
DSE1585
Oct 24, 2016

I'm not one for historical fiction, but this is easily a new favorite and I'm glad I read it. The author had a beautiful writing style, the culture and time period were extremely interesting, and the characters felt very human. Give this book a try even if religion, particularly as a common theme, doesn't interest you.

s
SiempreSara
Aug 03, 2016

The setting and time period was unique, especially for teen fiction - 13th century France/Spain (modern Provence), during the Inquisition. I liked the characters and their interesting backstories. Dolssa is a teenage mystic, who has an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus. The three sisters run a tavern and are a brewer, a matchmaker, and a fortune teller. I also liked the short chapters from the points of view of a diversity of other characters, framed as interviews by the Inquisitor searching for Dolssa.

I can't say anything for sure about the historical accuracy. As often happens with historical teen books, I wonder how much independence and individual agency young single women would have been permitted to have. It doesn't seem like the characters have a truly accurate historical perspective, but this of course does make them much more relatable to modern readers. I also wonder about the accuracy of the theology behind Dolssa's mysticism. I read some mystics and studied a bit of Catholic theology in college, but I am not an expert at all. I think Berry is wise not to really go into the details because things could get really crazy. It would have made a much more complex book though.

I also sometimes got a sense of "...and here are some historical details" in the writing - not seamlessly integrated into the story, although not jarring or distracting either. And they were interesting details!

The ending was actually pretty great in its ambiguity and lack of tidiness. This ultimately made it feel more real, historically. I'm less thrilled about the multiple frames of the story. They kind of confused me, and the very last revelation of twist, although nicely subtle, was a bit contrived.

k
KeyPaul
May 30, 2016

Just the right amount of history, authentic cultural details and language to make it interesting but not weighty. An interesting story of the role of the Church, superstition, cycles of nature and women's spirituality.

m
marthabwaters
Apr 12, 2016

I'm struggling with how to review this book, because while I think that, in some ways, it's a beautiful, powerful piece of writing, I'm finding it difficult to imagine many teens (the target audience, allegedly) reading this. It's set in so specific and obscure a time and place (medieval southern France) that I think a lot of people will just never pick this up. However, those that DO read will find a moving story with memorable characters that is clearly meticulously researched. I don't think this book will have a very wide readership, but for the people it does appeal to, there's a lot to appreciate here.

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DSE1585
Oct 24, 2016

DSE1585 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

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