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Review: The Passion of Dolssa

The Passion of Dolssa - Julie Berry

Beautiful, beautifully written historical novel.  Set in medieval France tells the story of Dolssa, a girl from a posh family and a sweet tone, and what she perceives to be a very special relationship with God/Jesus. Her passion is absolutely fascinating. I’m an atheist, no religious belief whatsoever, yet I found this novel absolutely addictive and compelling.


Brutal at parts, particularly with the snottiness of the Church and the inquisition. My knowledge of the time period itself is slim to nil. Dolssa was a lovely girl with a firm belief and a gentle personality and she shared her passions with her fellow citizens. Which instantly makes her a target for the Church.  The fanaticism of the inquisitors who think they are unquestionably right in the name of the Church and only their beliefs and laws laid down are the be all and end all of religion is frightening. Especially the fact that they will burn anyone who disagrees or has their own ideas of belief and faith.


 After a harrowing escape through the country side she’s finally rescued by three sisters returning from a trip who take her into their lives and offer her shelter. The novel tells of the lives of the three sisters, their friendships and the life of their small village by the sea. Also, how Dolssa and her secrets come to affect their lives.


Deeply passionate, and very moving, the slice of life into the everyday lives of these people so many years ago was absolutely fascinating. Also very interesting with the religious fervour and Dolssa’s own beliefs. And the seemingly impossible miracles that start occurring once Dolssa becomes well again and starts interacting more with the townsfolk. How they all interplay with each other is beautifully portrayed and very captivating.


The plot however, is slim to nill and very very slow. It’s the story telling and the characters that bring this book to life. The setting and the vividness of the writing that bring out the brilliantness of the novel. Of course, when things are smooth sailing and progressing nicely, it all goes hideously wrong for everyone and shock of certain characters’ true colours come to light. The end brought tears to my eyes a few times. Clearly carefully researched and the passion and care shine through in the story telling.  Also included are an extended reading list and a historical note from the author.


Fascinating, beautiful book.


Thank you to Penguin/Random House First to Read for providing the review copy.