Monday, December 22, 2008

In the Shadow of the Sun King by Golden Keyes Parsons

Normally, I don't do reviews of books on this blog. I promote authors and books, but don't do a review. I have published over 800 reviews, so it's not like I don't do them--I do. Usually it has been as part of my job with a magazine. Anyway, I agreed to do this, a real review and it hasn't been easy. I want to just promote the author and let you decide if it's a book you want to read--not tell you what I thought of it! Ok, so here you go. Let them eat cake.

In the Shadow of the Sun King by Golden Keyes Parsons
(Thomas Nelson)

Based on the author's own family history, the seventeenth century Clavell family's struggle to hold together their family in the face of religious persecution on order of the "Sun King" Louis XIV proves nearly fatal.

Huguenots, or French Protestants who followed teachings by John Calvin, are pillaged, their books burned, and homesteads destroyed, while the children are sent to Catholic schools to be re-educated if they did not convert to the country's religion, Catholicism. It was a time of great peril for families like the Clavells, but Madeleine, lady and wife of Francois, travels to Versailles in order to convince King Louis, her former love as teens, to desist in the pressure to conform to the country's religious practices.

Courage and strong convictions are two traits that the Clavells possess that transcend time and cultures to show that some things are worth dying for, worth risking it all for. The more the Clavells try to hang together, the more it appears that the family will be ripped apart at the seams.

Parsons shows a strong command of French history and culture in the King's court, as well as storytelling skills that help us to understand the power of prejudice vs. convictions. She demands attention to the emotions tied to our very souls, our heart’s convictions and core beliefs. In similar times would your faith stand? This is one question that Parsons attempts to answer with her own family history. My favorite parts involved the boys who were whisked away to keep them from being "re-educated" and the scenes where action was involved.

While it is difficult in this day to imagine Protestants pitted against Catholics, it is not difficult to imagine one group demanding obeisance and exhibiting power plays for reasons other than what God would want of us. May her message be one of choosing tolerance among our society today. Reading group guide and map included, as well as a glossary of French terms. Beautiful read, one of little known religious history and many details of the French court.

Here are the questions raised: When those who have power and disagree with you tread into your church, will you have to go underground? Will you sorrow over the books burned? Will you stand strong in your beliefs, even as your children are threatened to be re-educated in another belief, or you are threatened with conformity or death? A few years ago I would not have thought this was something that I would be confronted with in my own country—but these days I am seeing rumblings and so, this may be the book you should read to open your eyes to what persecution could be. Thought provoking and worth a look, and especially if you love French history. I found it to drag in places, and my own emotions weren't always pulled into the story as much as I would have liked, even though I normally love historical fiction like this.

However, if you love anything French, language and history, and the affairs of kings and court, you will like this, I assure you.

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