THE TREASURE OF MONTSGUR: A Novel of the Cathars

Sophy Burnham, Author . Harper San Francisco $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-000079-0

The extermination of the Cathars, a medieval religious sect settled in southern France that condemned the Catholic Church, provides heavy historic drapery for this somewhat lightweight novel. Having barely escaped burning on a pyre along with hundreds of fellow Cathars and Cathar sympathizers following a brutal year-long siege at the mountain fortress of Montségur, Jeanne is on the run from the Inquisition. Posing as a homeless madwoman, Jeanne recalls her past as an impulsive, sexually driven young woman raised by the saintly Cathars. When a stranger, Jerome, risks his life vouching for Jeanne to the inquisitors, Jeanne is forced to live with him, or else both will face heresy charges. Predictably, romance ensues. This contrivance allows Jeanne to tell her life story, including her survival at Montségur, amid snuggles and pillow talk. Jeanne's mood swings—from brash, intelligent and determined to innocent and meek—make her seem more disjointed than complex. Burnham, author of a number of books on spiritual phenomena, including the New York Times bestseller A Book of Angels, is at her best describing mystic and spiritual matters. Jeanne's spiritual transformations ("The soldiers grab me, strip me to the waist: my breasts exposed. They beat me with their leather whips, but oh, my Lady! Each blow brings only exquisite joy. I am transported, for I am filled with Christ and yet I gaze into the glowing eyes of Christ") feel vital and immediate. Despite its flaws, Burnham's novel is an energetic, psychological imagining of the Cathar legend. (June)

Reviewed on: 03/18/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-06-157192-3
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