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.
Although short, this book was a powerful story, no less because it was based off a true account. As the housekeeper says, it would have been better had Bertrande remained deceived. The ending was a bit heart wrenching.
Was difficult to start but enjoyed it once I got "into it".