The Refugees: A Tale of Two Continents, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Two exciting stories in one book. Conan Doyle has diligently researched events and conditions both in Versailles and in French-Canadian North America, and developed two superbly written tales linked by the person of Amory De Catinat, a half-hearted young Huguenot serving as a personal guard of the King.

The first story is a shockingly dramatic account of the callously immoral intrigues in the Court of Louis XIV, especially in relation to his rival lovers, the treacherous Mme. de Montespan and her children’s governess, the devout Mme. de Maintenon, who in a breakneck midnight wedding becomes his second wife. Although she was born in a Protestant family, to the sorrow of all save a few obsessive Catholic priests she fulfils her ill-considered promise to persuade the weak King to revoke the Edict of Nantes, thus triggering a renewed massive persecution of Huguenots throughout France.

In the second episode, De Catinat, his betrothed cousin Adele, and her father, together with two Americans, escape by dead of night and make their way across the Atlantic and up the St Lawrence River as far as Montreal. Here a new adventure commences, as they are forced to flee from another fanatic Churchman into the hostile forests.

Sadly, we only catch small and rather contemptible glimpses of the faith that inspires the Huguenots, and instead are plunged into a gory battle with Iroquois Indians, for whom the author shows not the slightest respect nor consideration.

The polished narrative and historic detail, including a couple of factual appendices, justify what would otherwise be a drawn-out adrenaline shot.

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