Another exploration of the Christian and Cathar religious writings, the suppression of the burgeoning Cathar religious sect, and the archeological zeal with which their legendary hidden texts are sought form the basis for this latest novel by Kate Mosse. This time, the action revolves around the political division within France during WWII. The Vichy alignment with Nazi German invaders and the French Free Forces that were lead by DeGaulle and the partisan freedom fighters/resisters were in direct opposition. The people of the Languedoc region of France were equally divided. Informers for the Vichy /Nazi live side by side with those who support freedom from Nazi occupation. French Free Forces sympathizers form partisan resistance groups who help Jews escape Nazi arrest by leading them over the Pyrenees and into Spain or to the harbors along the southern French coast for escape by sea. Into this political quagmire, Nazi and Vichy political leaders push their way looking for supposed archaeological evidence of an Aryan race that is woven into the history of the early Cathar religious writings. They seek fragments of written Cathar texts hidden when Pope Innocent III declared a Catholic crusade against the sect and tried to wipe them out and establish conversion of the local peoples of the Languedoc. Other local historians look for the same religious relics to safeguard them from exploitation by Nazi forces and draw hope from a legendary 'ghost army' that will rise to help defeat the invaders and allow the Free French movement to retake control over France.
This is an involved novel. There are multiple stories going on here. A romance between a partisan fighter named Raoul and a young French woman named Sandrine. They meet when she finds one of his cohorts drowning in the local river, after escaping a horrid interrogation by local henchmen of the Vichy government. What did she witness? What did the poor man say to her before he was recaptured and murdered? What does Raoul know about the odd packet found in his friend's apartment? Why does the local occupation force want that packet?
On another plane within the novel comes the story of a young monk from the 3rd century Lugdunum (Lyons) who is fleeing south through France with a sacred Christian text that he must keep safe and hide within the southern mountain caves. What is this text? Where does he hide it? Why must he be so secretive? These are the texts sought by the 20th century Germans and French. Who will find the texts and to what use will they be put?
The concept of time travel and reincarnation comes into play here too. Are Madeleine and Raoul and Baillard reincarnated Cathars who have come back to finish a sacred fight for freedom that has become wrapped up in World War II politics?
This is a good read,if you are a fan of archaeology, history, ancient religious myth and legend, and adventure.
I have read all of Kate Mosse's other novels, so it was a natural for me to grab this one. I enjoy her way of weaving the past legends of the Languedoc region of France into the documented history of the place. I understand that her novel, Labyrinth has been made into a television mini-series. The characters of that novel appear in this latest novel (no spoilers) when Sandrine acknowledges that her dreams hold a powerful message to the French citizens in the resistance.
I'm a sucker for folklore, religious intrigue, and the history of the Languedoc region ... feel the same? This would be a great vacation read.