Read of the Week

A Lute of Eleven Strings

Jane Kirsten

Porcupine Press

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

This book is poetically written and is a thoroughly enjoyable departure from the historical fiction mould.

It is set in 15th century France and tells the story of five generations of the De La Porte family, surviving brutal religious oppression.

At the centre of the story is grandson Luc, who is forced to flee from the family’s bookshop home in Paris after he is seen attending covert protestant meetings.

He goes to his grand uncle’s home in Flanders where he is schooled in the weaving trade and falls in love.

After he marries, he and his wife and children spread across the continent as they hide from or rebel against persecution.

Along the way, they experience both sides of the persecution coin, meet interesting historical figures, make unlikely friends and experience a lot of heartache and joy.

While the story is intrinsically about a family of covert French protestants, it is also a story about political warfare and the painful cost it counts in religious persecution.

The book was born out of the author’s research into her own French forebears.

The cover summary says Ms Kirsten, who lives in the Boland area, intended the book as a legacy for her own descendants.

I enjoyed this slow-paced book because the characters were richly layered and artfully written.

What other historical fiction writers do across dozens of books, Ms Kirsten does in one, without losing any nuances or texture and with an extra bit of grace to boot.