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audreyhawkins

audreyhawkins

The Return of Martin Guerre - Natalie Zemon Davis This account of a 16th century identity theft is very accessible, and provides a lot of historical context for the lay reader unfamiliar with peasant life in 16th c. France (!). What I enjoyed most, however, was the history of the story after the trial takes place. Davis follows an account from the presiding judge, in a sympathetic aside that even includes the judge's adoring letters to his young wife. She follows its inclusion into a "prodigious history," a kind of tabloid of its day that would include accounts of monstrous births, peasant revolts, comets and floods, and even, it seems, spontaneous (and naturally occurring?)sex reassignments! The history of books and reading is almost more interesting to me than the actual story. Add a little Montaigne at the end, as she does, and I think you can't go wrong.