The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

the-passion-of-dolssaBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Viking, an Imprint of Penguin Press (2016)
  • Edition: 1st Edition
  • Description: 478 pages : map ; 22 cm; hardcover edition
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: “Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.” Retrieved from http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/316311/the-passion-of-dolssa-by-julie-berry/9780451469922/
  • ISBN: 978-0-451-46992-2
  • Subjects:
      European (French) History – Fiction
      Religious History, i.e. Inquisition and Christian heresies – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: What’s a girl to do when the love of her life, who whispers in her ear so many lovely and wonderful things, is Jesus Christ, the Son of God? What is she to do when he tells her to share his message and the Inquisition is in town?
Plot Summary: In the 11th century Europe a young noblewoman is touched by God. She hears the voice of Christ and is compelled to talk to others about what she hears. But this is a time of Inquisition in Italy when anyone who believes or acts in ways that the Church doesn’t agree with is considered a heretic and put to death. Dolssa is such a person. As a result she is arrested, along with her mother who is burned to death moments before Dolssa as a means of encouraging Dolssa to confess. But instead she escapes with the help of a unseen savior and flees into the countryside.
Weeks later, near death she is found by another young woman on her way home from a trip. This woman is one of three sisters who have used their skills and wits to build a life for themselves in a small coastal village. Botille, the middle girl, finds Dolssa and convinces her younger sister and a grumpy young man to help her save the girl, from starvation and from the Inquisitor who is searching for her. The remainder of the story deals with how she impacts the lives of all those around her, both for the good and for the bad.
Critical Evaluation: This is an extremely unique example of young adult fiction. Historical novels are a difficult genre to write for young adult readers because they often view it as boring and out of touch. And while this book will be hard-pressed to find an audience, I believe that anyone who does read it will be moved and enlightened both about the situation these young women find themselves in and about how much people are the same no matter when or where they live.
In terms of the writing style, it is not as smooth as I would like. The beginning has parts that are written as one side of a conversation Dolssa is having with various interrogators, where the remainder of the book is written in first person from Botille’s point of view.
Author’s Brief Bio:

  • ”Julie Berry grew up in western New York. She holds a BS from Rensselaer in communication and an MFA from Vermont College in writing for children and young adults. She now lives in southern California with her husband and four sons. All the Truth That’s in Me (September 2013, Viking) was Julie’s first young adult novel. It earned five starred reviews and garnered widespread critical praise. It was nominated for the Edgar Award for Young Adult Mystery, and shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal (UK), and was the recipient of the 2014 Silver Inky award, the Whitney Award for YA, and the Westchester Fiction Prize. Julie is also the author of seven other critically acclaimed titles for young readers. Her works appear in international versions worldwide. Prior to becoming an author, she worked in software sales and marketing.”
  • Retrieved from http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/224172/julie-berry.
    Genre Designation: Historical Fiction

Possible Curriculum Links: European History and Religious History
Book Talk Ideas: If you had a friend in trouble, how far would you go to help them?
Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected: Too often we forget how dangerous something like religion can be and why a secular government is so important to human rights and freedoms. It’s something that most kids today don’t realize and books like this help them reconnect to the past in a way that can help them stay safe in the future.

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