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This is book number 1 in the Fortunes of France series.
"There is a philosophical depth to the novel. . . one of the strengths of Merle’s novels [is] his ability to evoke the feeling and texture of everyday life as well as high politics. . . [The Brethren] has a credibly human solidity, and whets one’s appetite for the next volume, “City of Wisdom and Blood,” which will be published in the fall." — The Wall Street Journal"One of the many delights vouchsafed by Robert Merle's The Brethren is the sense that the author is astonished that what he's writing about actually happened. . . If there is a pattern to the narration—a dependable vacillation between personal exploit and public machination—the chronicle is also seductively contorted, with adventures sowed into other adventures. . . Pierre, then, is the human demilitarized zone separating his mother and father. His voice can be self-congratulatory though also generous and gently philosophical, reminiscent at moments of Merle's colleague Sartre. . . Feudal life can hardly seem more vivid than when Merle leaves the religious war to describe, through a smart translation by T. Jefferson Kline, a soul-strengthening day of haymaking or the swagger of a barrel-chested wet nurse with 'milk for sale.' Merle the English teacher repeatedly bows to Shakespeare. . . [The Brethren] is wise and audacious, constantly nudging up against the extraordinary." — The New York Times Book Review
"Swashbuckling historical fiction... For all its philosophical depth [The Brethren] is a hugely entertaining romp... The comparisons with Dumas seem both natural and deserved and the next 12 instalments [are] a thrilling prospect." — Guardian
"The compelling first in a series of French historical novels, deftly translated and published for the first time in English. Château Mespech is a fiefdom relentlessly imperiled by the weather, Gypsy bandits, royal and religious duplicity, and the plague . . . Merle peoples his tale with memorable characters: villains, maids, legionnaires and townsfolk . . . Merle's is a French epic, more genteel than Dickens' poor-child English tales and less doleful than Tolstoy's Russian sagas." -- Kirkus Reviews