5 Star Highly Recommended Award of Excellence
From the Drop of Heaven has received the coveted 5 Star Highly Recommended Award from the Historical Fiction Company.
This 5 Star designation has advanced my novel into the book of the year contest to be announced in December. Just being nominated into this contest is a great honor as Reedsy just awarded The Historical Fiction Company’s Book of the Year contest an award for “Best Writing Contest” of 2022!!
This review accompanied my award
Thoughts took him back to his first day at the university when Claude, philosopher of the skepticism movement, held up the Bible and said, “This book has caused more death than any disease in history. Leaders have no problem sending their soldiers to fight and die, but they themselves will change sides in a heartbeat when it comes to money or power.”
The religious battle between Catholic and Protestant in the late 16th century is filled with tale after tale of people’s struggles – of superstition, revenge, hate, jealousy, and the incessant image of a fiery stake upon which heretics are burned. At some point or another, depending on which side was prominent, both were guilty of thrusting accusations of witchcraft and heresy upon whomever was deemed a traitor to the “true” religion. Book banning was another way which kept the populous under the strict hand of the Church, and learning to read, especially the Bible, was forbidden which the religious leaders kept hidden for fear of their hypocrisy and true teachings being revealed.
“A violent death is a sign of the devil’s interference. This man has paid the ultimate price for his many wrongdoings, and he will suffer in Purgatory for a long time – but if you want to shorten his sentence, you may purchase indulgences after the commital ceremony.”
One of the remarkable things about this novel is the knowledge that the author gives of this being her own history of her ancestors during this time period, Catherine Catillon and Nicholas de la Gouette de Paradis, a young couple plagued by divisiveness of religion and heresies which are the foundation of this story. Backed by the rise of Calvinism and the horrific St Bartholemew’s Day Massacre of Huguenots in France which was supposedly instigated by Catherine de Medici before the wedding of the king’s sister, Margaret, to the Protestant Henry of Navarre. The mob violence sparked an insatiable appetite for hatred of one religion against another, ensnaring many, such as this young couple portrayed in this book. Hidden snakes, both real and allegorical, slither throughout this story.
“Just as Catholics did not kill my family, Catherine, Huguenots did not kill your father. Murderers killed them. Evil people think they can get away with their wickedness by hiding behind religion, but they are not religious – they are just evil.”
We meet Martin, an accused seditionist who owns some very controversial books, banned books, who escapes the flames of a pyre to the safety of the city of Salm where he meets and, eventually, instructs Nicholas, the young son of the local blacksmith and mayor of the city, teaching him to read and about the truths found within the writings, as well as the benefits of scientific and medical research (which at the time was banned in many respects). Catherine is from a Catholic family, yet distances herself from those intolerant beliefs and after meeting Nicholas by chance, not only does she come to learn from him about the truths within the banned books, but she falls in love with him.
What is remarkable about this story is the seamless entwining of Catherine and Nicholas’s story, of their life together, their transition melded into the transition happening in the world around them. They are faced with staunch supporters of the old faith, clashing beliefs, the devastation of the plague, and the metamorphosis of religion and politics… in other words, in a world where they were seeking their ‘drop of heaven’, the chaos surrounding them often threatened to destroy their dreams, especially when faced with an accusation of heresy and the spread of lies and vengeance from spurned lovers.
“Look at these illustrations – all the bones here.” He turned to a separate section. “And this, all the muscles.”
The drawings were disturbing. Nicholas rubbed his fingers along the picture of a human’s bones. “How could this docitor draw things inside the body?”
“He cut it open,” Martin said casually as he turned the page.
Shocked, Nicholas’s jaw dropped. “But that’s forbidden!”
Without taking his eyes from the book, Martin replied, “The pope had to relax his regulations – too much pressure from doctors to the high court. While he still prohibits surgery on living patients.” Turning another page, Martin continued, “This way, doctors can view the perfection established by the Creator, but they should not try to understand it since it is divine. Vesuvius lost his life over these books. Never in my life have I owned anything as prestigious. The printer who originally published them was burned. For all these years, I had hoped to get at least one volume, and here I am with two. I want to revel in them first, and then I will lend one to Catherine.”
The author gifts the reader with very well-rounded characters, with thought-provoking dialogue and narrative, with skillfully crafted historical events, and a setting which places the reader firmly in this fiery world of discord. The tension, and the growth of the characters, grabs you from the start and is everything a well-told historical novel should be, as the author tells a very relatable story, one which resonates to religious conflicts even in our modern era. One is reminded of the false claims of witchcraft and the fervour which developed in the early witch trails in Salem Massachusetts – women and men facing baseless claims based on fear, vengeance, lies, and hatred.
After months later, Nicholas received a letter via the coach from Strasborg. He rushed home to open it with Catherine. Little Jean announced that two years of being an errand boy earned him an apprenticeship in the bindery. Nicholas could finally relax. His wife was content, his son was safe, and happy learning his chosen profession, and Salome had apparently taken his threat seriously and convinced Laville to abandon his plot of revenge. Their children would have a bright future indeed. We have achieved our drop of heaven.
For lovers of rich, immersive history wrapped in a captivating and heartbreaking story, this book grabs hold from the very beginning and refuses to release until the very last word. Juliette Godot is a master storyteller, taking her own astounding family history and offering the reader a beautifully crafted tale worthy of ten stars!
“From the Drop of Heaven” by Juliette Godot receives five stars from The Historical Fiction Company and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence
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