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Book Review: The Good Men (a Novel of Heresy) - Charmaine Craig
Riverhead Hardcover, January 2002, 448 pages. ISBN: 157322197X
In her debut novel, Charmaine Craig mines the rich detail of the Medieval Inquisition registers used to produce Emmanuel le Roi Ladurie's classic nonfiction work, "Montaillou."
Set in the village of the same name (in the South of France), "The Good Men" centers around the lives of the villagers and the ways in which both the Cathar heresy and the resulting Inquisition affect them.
Pierre Clergue, a sexually repressed priest who is more concerned with his own bodily needs than with the spiritual needs of his parishioners, is the catalyst for this story of obsession and denial. His lust for Marquise, his brother's abandoned, pregnant mistress leads him down a dangerous path away from the Church and towards the heretic Cathars--the Good Men.
In a strange turn of events, Fabrisse, the daughter of Marquise and Pierre's brother becomes obsessed with Pierre himself, but Pierre turns instead towards her daughter, Grazida. Pierre's shifting alliances with the women of the village and with the Good Men themselves, draws the eye of a zealous Inquisitor, leading to the physical and mental torment of those around him.
Though the story is based upon the real Grazida's testimony to her Inquisitors, at times, I felt a bit too much emotional distance from the characters--as if they were just too far away to appreciate their motives and reactions. That, however, was a minor flaw. It is otherwise a powerful story that gives a feeling of insight into an alien landscape.
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