Wife of Martin Guerre

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This compelling story of Bertrande de Rols is a rich novella with the timeless power of a fable. It was based on a famous story of a court case in mid-16th century France.Janet Lewis depicts a distant time and a traditional, rural culture based on a highly ordered patriarchal structure. When "Martin Guerre" returns from a quest after eight years, the family embraces him, and Bertrande is swept up in the relief at the apparent return to the security of the old order.But Martin has changed, and Bertrande threatens ...
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The Wife of Martin Guerre

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Overview

This compelling story of Bertrande de Rols is a rich novella with the timeless power of a fable. It was based on a famous story of a court case in mid-16th century France.Janet Lewis depicts a distant time and a traditional, rural culture based on a highly ordered patriarchal structure. When "Martin Guerre" returns from a quest after eight years, the family embraces him, and Bertrande is swept up in the relief at the apparent return to the security of the old order.But Martin has changed, and Bertrande threatens the established order with her defiant quest for the truth. Once the accusation of false identity is laid formally and the trial process begins. Many witnesses are called. Bertrande is pressured to withdraw, and she herself is reluctant to see "Martin" executed.Finally, the real, battle-weary Martin stumbles into the courtroom and is instantly recognized. He shows no mercy to Bertrande for allowing herself to be deceived. The real facts emerge, but the fate of Bertrande and Martin remains open-ended.
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Editorial Reviews

Dana Gioia
A forgotten masterpiece, often plagiarized, but never equaled.
The Hungry Mind Review
From the Publisher

The Wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis is one of the most resonant short novels I can remember. I greatly like two other books she wrote: The Trial of Soren Qvist and The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron. She never got the attention she deserved."

— Evan S. Connell, Jr.

“One of the last century’s great novels.”

— A Commonplace Blog

“When the literary history of the second millennium is written at the end of the third, in the category of dazzling American short fiction (Janet Lewis’s) Wife of Martin Guerre will be regarded as the 20th century's Billy Budd and Janet Lewis will be ranked with Herman Melville.”

The New York Times

“Flaubertian in the elegance of its form and the gravity of its style.”

The New Yorker

“A masterpiece…a short novel that can run with Billy Budd, The Spoils of Poynton, Seize the Day, or any other.”

— Larry McMurtry, The New York Review of Books

“Janet Lewis brings the haunting qualities of fable to this novella, based on a legal case that attracted wide attention in 16th-century France and has continued to fascinate down through the years.”

— Ron Hansen, The Wall Street Journal

“One of the most significant short novels in English.”

Atlantic Monthly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804003216
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/1967
  • Pages: 109
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 8.06 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Janet Lewis wrote many books of poetry and historical fiction, including The Wife of Martin Guerre. She was married to the poet and critic Yvor Winters. Janet Lewis died in 1998 at the age of 99.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2005

    Historical fiction provokes discussion of themes of justice and ethics

    This retelling of an actual 12th century French court case was made into a well respected movie. A book group reading of it offered one of the best discusssions in the 20+ years of book group selctions. It ranks with the Nobel winning Saramagu's book 'Blindness' for a timeless story of personal and societal conflict. The conflict between truth, brutality, justice, gender, fidelity is not easily settled. The discussion that results is deep and endless.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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