So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Branding Needle

The Branding Needle; or, The Monastery of Charolles: A Tale of the First Communal Charter by Eugene Sue

The Branding Needle is the 7th of a 20 volume series called The Mysteries of the People; or History of a Proletarian Family Across the Age that Eugene Sue wrote between 1849 and 1857 to depict the struggle between the invading Franks and the oppressed Gallic people of France over a period of 2000 years.
This volume, set in the year 613 in a small monastery, is a sequel to The Poniard’s Hilt which told how 50 years earlier rebellious bandits, fighting the oppressive rule of Frankish overlords and their allies, the catholic bishops and priests, signed a truce with the king and settled in the valley of Charolles. In this book the aged monk Loysik must confront Queen Brunhild, whose bishop has asked her to give him control of the monastery.
Sue writes descriptively of the cruelty and excesses of Brunhild and King Clotaire II who are involved in a struggle for control of France. He writes of how, through a combination of military strength and religious hypocrisy, they enslave the Gallic peasants, and take their lands and property. In opposition to the Frankish control by force and fear, he shows the communal life of the Gauls of Charolles as an example of how people can live in mutual respect and shared resources.
While the structure is a simple morality tale of evil Franks and bishops versus the good peasants of Gaul, Sue's writing brings alive the history of France through a series of episodic novels that trace a Gallic family through generations of oppression and strife. In each book a member of the family recounts their own tale, and adds it to a communal history that has been preserved to inspire future generations with the story of their struggle.

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