Medieval Historical Fiction Novel of the Week

The Good Men - Charmaine Craig - Historical Fiction - Medieval History - Middle Ages - Novel - Cathars - FranceThe Good Men: A Novel of Heresy by Charmaine Craig

Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Trade (March 4, 2003)
Average Customer Review on Amazon: 4.5 stars (28 reviews)

Editorial Review from

The Good Men, Charmaine Craig’s fascinating tale of medieval torments and unrequited love, is brutally illuminating. The story concerns Pierre Clergue, a 14th-century French rector. Pierre is a small man plagued for a lifetime by his bad hip and the maddening tension between dutiful celibacy and plain old lust. In love with his brother’s lover, the pregnant Marquise, Pierre takes her and her illegitimate daughter (Pierre’s niece), Fabrisse, under his wing. In time, Pierre becomes the top cleric in the town of Mantaillou and abuses his position, having a number of secret affairs, one of them with Fabrisse and eventually with the latter’s daughter, Grazida, who marries a Cathar.

Here is where the author’s juxtaposition of fiction and history really begins to pay off by intensifying Pierre’s inner conflicts. The Cathars, also known as the Good Men, are a real-life Christian sect from medieval southern France. They enter Montaillou declaring that all things mortal are creations of Satan. They preach renunciation of the flesh and, of course, women. Pierre is initially drawn to the Cathar’s stated determination, but he finds, as all Cathars do, that renouncing sins of the flesh just makes such sins more tempting. Craig’s use of alternate points of view creates a world rich in texture and emotional resonance, one that lends itself to meditations upon religious conviction and crises. The dense writing could be leaner on descriptive detail, which would speed up the sometimes slow character development, but otherwise, The Good Men is a fine experience. –Tom Keogh –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Editorial Review from Publishers Weekly:

Chronicling the uncertainties and ethical crises of a village rector in early 14th-century France who struggles as much with his bodily yearnings as with his spiritual needs, this heady novel draws on depositions given during the French Inquisition to fictionalize the strange story of the Cathars, a Christian sect of medieval southern France. When the Cathars, or the Good Men, as they are known, enter rector Pierre Clergue’s village of Montaillou, professing Satan’s creation of all things mortal and preaching the renunciation of the flesh, Clergue, who has suffered mentally and physically from degenerative hip disease since age 11, is drawn to their teachings. In particular, he is strengthened by their determination to renounce women. And yet, like his masters, his renunciation of the flesh makes human communion even more tempting, and he finds he cannot help surrendering to his desire for Grazida Lizier, the 15-year-old daughter of his brother’s bastard child. Although Craig relies a bit too heavily on biblical allusions to get her point across an inquisitor, Bernard, is left, like Moses, as a babe “planted among the reeds” her use of alternate vantage points creates a believable, poignant story based on themes of religious conviction and spiritual crisis. Her splendid use of imagery and fully fleshed out characters add depth to the novel, as do period details. The density of the material means the book will be best appreciated by those with some knowledge of the period, but resolute general readers will be helped along by several sharp and satisfying plot twists. Foreign rights sold in Denmark, Finland, France, Holland, Italy.

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