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This is the first book of a thirteen book series and covers Pierre's early years from his birth in to To help orient readers of this review, the time period covered by this book is after the beginning of the Reformation and before the Bartholomew's Day massacre I mention St. Bartholomew's Day massacre becau This book is a historical novel narrated in the first person voice of a fictional character named Pierre de Siorac living in the Perigord region of southwest France.

Bartholomew's Day massacre because the narrator of this story is raised in a Huguenot community, so we as readers know something ominous about the narrator's future. This book series was published between and and is slowly being translated into English. I think only the first three books have been translated thus far. It is my understanding that this book series is popular in France and has a reputation for being carefully based on historical research.

The time covered by this book was not a particularly good time to be alive. Brigands roamed the countryside which made travel and commerce hazardous. It's a time when disease, plague, famine and death were frequent and unpredictable. And as if that's not bad enough, intercommunity conflict between Catholics and the Huguenots was endemic.


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Religious differences were generally considered to be a justifiable motive for murder. The story highlights miscellaneous details of life such as sleeping arrangements of the children, role of the wet-nurse, work at harvest time, raising of livestock, milling of grain, and medical practices. Of course military and policing action were part of life then too. From time to time the story's narration pauses to bring the reader up-to-speed regarding international politics and royal decrees from faraway Paris.

Le Président a rendu hommage aux quatre figures de la résistance qui font leur entrée au Panthéon.

The book provides a credible description of life at that time. However, in my opinion only reader's with a particular interest in that era of European history will find it of interest. View all 5 comments.

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Thus far only the first two have been translated into English, although the third is expected to be available next summer. The entire series has been much admired in France. I wish that I could be as enthusiastic about the work as those in Europe apparently are. The writing in this first novel, which covers the years from to , seems to me to be generally flat. The two main protagonists are Huguenots, their lives and religion being contrasted with those of their family and colleagues who are Catholic.

There seem to be more characters in the book than Merle can comfortably develop, and most remain for the most part two-dimensional, representing particular points of view and nothing more. The narrative seems fairly faithful to actual history, although it is clearly not meant to be a history text. But is it a successful novel in and of itself? Maybe Merle himself could not decide what he wanted to write, what he really intended.

Descriptions in the text are sketchy, mostly focusing on the external personal characteristics of his characters. As a brief digression, let me say that I cannot recall having read any book in which the author was so obsessed with breasts. Merle is fascinated with breasts, almost all female characters being described, often in detail, by their breast characteristics, as if one might identify them only in this regard. It seems odd, at first puzzling, ultimately tedious.

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Dialogue in the story is by and large nonspecific, not pointing to any particular historical period and only sometimes differentiating the characters, but this may be the fault of the translation. I missed the creative panache that Hillary Mantel, for example, brings to her English historical fiction. The author does convey the ethical and religious dilemmas of the protagonists, and these provide the primary subtexts of the novel.

There are convincing descriptions of the plague, a few battles, and of the living conditions and life ways of the period. The narrative fulfils the goal of realism within a fictional context. In general, the book only rarely sparkles, and it was often hard for me to sustain interest in the narrative. It is far from being a bad novel, but neither am I convinced that it is anything special. Time, life, is short, especially for those of us of a certain age, and one is reluctant to spend it reading anything but the best.

I am not currently inclined to move on to the next volume in the series. View 2 comments. Merle describes the structure of his book quite well in his foreword: "It is a concentric tail, whose first circle is a family, second circle a province and third a kingdom, whose princes receive no more attention than is necessary to understand the happiness and unhappiness of those who, far away in their baronial courts, depended on their decisions. Merle balances historical a "The Brethren" is a wonderful, lusty novel grounded in the history of early 16C France.

Merle balances historical anecdotes with personal passages and establishes the atmosphere of the period in both large and minute details. The conflict between Protestants and Catholics is not only clear, it is also passionately rendered, which made it easier for me to understand the motivations behind terrible acts of violence. I also grasped some of the more personal conflicts that occurred at chateau Mespech, especially after the Brethren decide to take their stand on religion. Speaking of, the concept of "the Brethren" is awesome and just as mesmerizing as the camaraderie that Dumas depicted in The Three Musketeers.

The medieval romantic ideals that remain attractive to this day manifest throughout this novel and contribute to some dramatic and exciting scenes. I gobbled this novel up as both an historical survey and a lush, full work of fiction. I will now shelve this book feeling both buoyant and heavy-hearted; the former, because I loved reading this book, loved the feel of its pages, loved the look of its simple, elegant cover, loved living in its words; the latter, because 12 volumes remain in this story and the second does not appear in English translation thank you Pushkin Press!

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Then again, I can look forward to these books being in my life for some years to come. I vividly remember watching one of the many three musketeer movies for the first time as a seven year old and being thoroughly enchanted by the pervasive violence and high jinks. I also find the Huguenots, especially the diaspora, really interesting as well. So a history of violent sword brandishing Hugenots was always going to play well with me.

There is hopefully much for people who don't share my predilections to enjoy in this historical fiction.

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Written from the perspective of a young boy gr I vividly remember watching one of the many three musketeer movies for the first time as a seven year old and being thoroughly enchanted by the pervasive violence and high jinks. Written from the perspective of a young boy growing up in a Protestant barons household it is well researched and engagingly written account of both the times and a fun escapist set of stories and adventures.

As a sidenote, the authors obsession with breast feeding is either a touch of genius in terms of capturing the thoughts of a teenage boy or a misguided attempt to appeal to a particular demographic usually served by other publications. It's a fun read, not the most brilliant historical fiction book I have ever read but a really pleasant and informative way to spend a couple of hours. Looking forward to the next in the series. Dec 16, Laura rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical-fiction , hf-medieval-europe , read , roman-historique.

The first book of a series of 13 books.

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Very well written, even by using some medieval French, the story starts under the reign of Catherine de Medicis and Charles IX. View all 10 comments. This is the first in a long series of novels based around the religious wars in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century France. The central family are Huguenot and this offers an unusual perspective on French history. A combination of social, religious and political history, with a strong seasoning of classic French storytelling in the style of Dumas or Hugo, make this an entertaining and compelling read.

Volumes Two and Three are also available in translation, so I will be pursuing them with some fer This is the first in a long series of novels based around the religious wars in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century France. Volumes Two and Three are also available in translation, so I will be pursuing them with some fervour.

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Hankering for fiction set in sixteenth century France? Jeffe Hankering for fiction set in sixteenth century France? Jefferson Kline and published by Pushkin Press.