The Passion of Dolssa – Julie Berry
21st March 2016, 336 pages, 3/5 stars
I honestly expected to like this book a lot more than I did. The cover, for one, is absolutely gorgeous – I love the font! I have absolutely no idea what exactly I was expecting, but unfortunately, it wasn’t this.
The Passion of Dolssa is based in Provensa, France in 1241. Dolssa communes with Jhesus (that is how Julie Berry spells it!) which makes her a heretic. The church intends to find her, and burn her. Dolssa refers to Jhesus as her ‘beloved’ and appears to be totally and utterly in love with him. To be honest, not being particularly religious myself, this made me uncomfortable, and is probably the main reason why I didn’t like the book as much as I believed that I would. Dolssa, for whom the book is named, was a little bland. Her voice was boring!!!
Botille was my favourite character. She is a peasant, and she uses her incredible skills of observations as the town’s matchmaker. Botille lives with her two sisters. Her eldest sister, Plazensa, is an absolute beauty and manages the tavern with a fierce hand. Her younger sister, Sazia, can read people’s futures. The sister dynamic was absolutely fantastic – they argued, but at the end of the day they loved each other dearly.
Botille finds Dolssa half-dead in a ditch when she ventures outside the village of Bajas. She takes her home, keeping her hidden from the friar on her tail. Together, the sisters help her regain her health, and eventually Dolssa gains a reputation as a healer in their small town. This attracts unwanted attention from the Church, however, and the climactic final scenes were absolutely terrifying.
The period was incredibly interesting, but I found it difficult to reconcile my modern-day beliefs with the mysticism running rampant through the novel. Botille made the book worth reading. She had an amusing romance – although a fantastic matchmaker, she couldn’t see her own match right in front of her!
I was incredibly confused by the epilogue – I literally had no clue what was happening, and therefore finished the book in a state of confusion; not a great place to finish off…. However, Julie Berry did include notes on the time period which were rather interesting; I won’t be taking her advice on further reading though!
If you are interested in the religious inquisitors, this is a fantastic book for you. I thought that I was more interested in the period than I ended up being. For me, it was only the character of Botille which kept me reading.
Are there certain themes which just don’t capture you? What are your feelings on stories about religion throughout history?
Dolssa is a young gentlewoman with uncanny gifts, on the run from an obsessed friar determined to burn her as a heretic for the passion she refuses to tame.
Botille is a wily and charismatic peasant, a matchmaker running a tavern with her two sisters in a tiny seaside town.
The year is 1241; the place, Provensa, which we now call Provence, is a land still reeling from the bloody crusades waged there by the Catholic Church and its northern French armies.
When the matchmaker finds the mystic near death by a riverside, Botille takes Dolssa in and discovers the girl’s extraordinary healing power. But as the vengeful Friar Lucien hunts down his heretic, the two girls find themselves putting an entire village at the mercy of murderers.