The Priest's Madonna

The Priest's Madonna

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by Amy Hassinger
     
 

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In 1896, a priest in southern France suddenly gained immense wealth. This much is historically true-but no one knows where the money came from. At his death, the priest's secret was buried with him. But there was a young woman-his housekeeper and lover, Marie DŽnarnaud-who may have known the truth.

Marie DŽnarnaud is only a girl when the…  See more details below

Overview

In 1896, a priest in southern France suddenly gained immense wealth. This much is historically true-but no one knows where the money came from. At his death, the priest's secret was buried with him. But there was a young woman-his housekeeper and lover, Marie DŽnarnaud-who may have known the truth.

Marie DŽnarnaud is only a girl when the charismatic priest BŽrenger first captivates her. As a woman, she becomes his housekeeper and struggles with guilt over their illicit relationship. But as their affection deepens, BŽrenger grows secretive, and Marie has to learn why. What she discovers is a shocking secret that she becomes responsible for concealing.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A historical romance that mixes literary heft and pop-fiction indulgence, Hassinger's ambitious second novel (following Nina: Adolescence) makes for a busy, derivative read. Marie Dernanaud, raised a religious skeptic, is immediately attracted to Berenger Sauniere, the devout, charismatic priest who takes over the parish of her small town, Rennes-le-Chateau, in the 1890s. While hiding their dangerous affection for each other behind arguments over religion and revolution, Marie, who narrates, and B renger oversee their church's renovation, which turns up some curious artifacts: a map, a book and an ancient stone carving that might hold a Da Vinci-esque code. (Wearyingly, the stuff does in fact have its origins with the Knights Templar.) With the help of the enigmatic mayor's wife, Madame Simone Laporte, Marie tries to piece together the mystery of the church, but Berenger has confessed that he's being fed a steady diet of cash by a powerful financier who wants access to whatever they find-including possible proof of a bloodline (here's Simone's interest) descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Hassinger believably conveys Berenger's transformation from gentle clergyman to angry, corrupt doubter, and mixes in some tantalizing ancient doings in Judea, but all the competing interests sap the dynamism from Marie, who never achieves a distinct voice. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Drawing on current interest in religious mysteries, Hassinger also may awaken some similarities to Colleen McCullough's The Thornbirds in creating a mystery-romance-historical novel set primarily in late 19th-century Southern France but also in ancient Judea. Priest Berenger Sauniere has ties to the Knights Templars' secret treasure, and when he dies mysteriously, it is his housekeeper and presumed lover, Marie D narnaud, who must juggle faith, love, and trust. Her transformation from a 16-year-old love-smitten adolescent to the holder of all secrets may not be fully convincing, but the author does create some viable parallels into the Mary Magdalene mythos. Initially a slow moving story that reveals its clues unevenly, the tale becomes more engaging than its characters. Anna Fields handles the accents and characters' nuances very well. A timely audiobook in the wake of Dan Brown's Da Vinci success. Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101156957
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/03/2007
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
File size:
438 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

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Meet the Author

Amy Hassinger is a graduate of Barnard College and the Iowa Writer's Workshop, where she studied with Marilynne Robinson and Frank Conroy. She teaches in the University of Nebraska's MFA in Creative Writing.

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3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1884 sixteen years old religious skeptic Marie Dernanaud and her family move to the nearby village of Rennes-le-Chateau when their home burned down. At about the same time Father Berenger Sauniere takes over the town parish. Berenger is a family friend having met Marie for instance when she was nine. Though fifteen plus years older than her, she found him fascinating then and even more so now as a teen he reciprocates her feelings. However both hide their feelings for one another behind religious debates especially since he temporally lives with her and her family while the townsfolk renovate the church. --- The fixing up of the church leads to uncovering a tome, a map and a strange ancient stone carving. Excited and encouraged by the mayor's wife, Simone Laporte, Marie investigates the enigmatic artifacts found buried deep inside the church. She begins to trace a possible descent from a relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene while her beloved priest sells them out for shekels. --- This is a fascinating thriller that is at its best when Marie investigates the church mysteries, but loses some steam with too many subplots including a deep look at a Jesus-Mary relationship and the seemingly always Templar effect. The change over time of Berenger from idealistic charismatic believer to dishonest skeptic is deftly handled while the opposite happens with Marie. The deep look at first century Judea is also excellent, but with all this going on, Marie is overwhelmed though she is the center holding the tale together. Still fans will enjoy this Christian historical mystery. ---Harriet Klausner