The Passion of Dolssa

Cover to The Passion of Dolssa: A Novel by Julie Berry

Three young sisters with a thieving past, Botille, Plazensa and Sazia were wanderers, surviving by any means necessary, moving from place to place once they wore out their welcome. The three sisters and Jabau, Sazia’s father, traveled to the French seaside town of Bajas, where for once they put down roots and became if not quite respected, still valuable residents. They open up a tavern and use their individual talents to bring in extra money. The observant and quick talking Botille becomes the town’s matchmaker; Plazensa puts her feminine wiles to use; and Sazia possesses her deceased mother’s ability to tell fortunes. In Bajas, they finally feel secure and content with their lives.

Dolssa is a noblewoman from Tolosa, who speaks of her beloved "Jhesus" to her family and friends who gather in crowds to hear her. But this is a very troubling time in the 13th century, shortly after a holy war has ravaged the countryside, dealing death to those judged as heretics as well as their enemy, the established Church. So, for Dolssa to have unsanctioned discussions about God and her personal relationship with her beloved Jhesus is reckless and does not go unnoticed. Dolssa is condemned as a heretic by Friar Lucien and is sentenced to death. 

Having escaped, Dolssa eludes capture and is found near death by Botille. Sympathetic to her plight, Botille and her family nurse her back to health and aid her, even though those charitable acts could mean death for all of them. The sisters soon realize that there is more to Dolssa than first appears and will soon have their own faith tested, for she is still being pursued by Friar Lucien, as well as a knight, Senhor Hugo.

The Passion of Dolssa is a historical novel based on a horrific time in the Church’s history, when mystics might be hunted down and killed for their beliefs. Mystics believe that personal connections with Jesus can be obtained through prayer, isolation, visions and even visitations. Dolssa’s story was based on the lives of six known medieval mystics whose personal accounts have been documented.

If you know a little about the inquisitions, you can probably surmise the outcome of the story. But a narrative isn’t just about the ending, but rather it encompasses the journey it takes us on and what we gain from it. The Passion of Dolssa is the kind of novel where you don’t realize how much you are invested in the characters until the end. 

If you enjoyed this book you might also like the jazz-age mystery The Lost Girl of Astor Street, by Stephanie Morrill.