I read a lot of books. Amongst those with the strongest sense of place, the ones that linger in my imagination, are the Languedoc trilogy by Kate Mosse. Citadel, the third novel in the series, is set in ad342 and 1942 during World War Two. Unusually with a trilogy, you don’t have to have read the other two books in order to enjoy this one. Certainly it is some years since I read Labyrinth and Sepulchre and the details are hazy, each book stands on its own.
I enjoyed this book immensely. The story centres on a small group of women who fight against the Nazi regime and who, by the very fact that they are women, are able to slip unnoticed along the night-time streets of occupied Carcassonne. The Prologue describes ‘the woman known as Sophie’ and the reader is left to wonder, which of the women in the story is ‘Sophie’?
I must point out that the story is slow to get going, I had to be patient, but I trusted Mosse [below]. It did make me question whether my attention span is shortening, I hope not. If it is I must read longer novels to re-stretch my brain.A note in the 2014 edition, which I read, explains that the story was inspired by a plaque in a village near Carcassonne, commemorating the ‘martyrs of Baudrigues’. Days before the Languedoc was freed by its own people, as the Nazis were fleeing, 19 prisoners were killed, two women are to this day still unidentified. These facts started Mosse wondering who those women were: that was her starting point for Citadel.
It is clear that both time strands are set in the same place, the countryside of the Languedoc, the forests, the mountains, its people and language, and the weather, anchors the reader firmly in southern France. In ad342, Arinius is looking for a hiding place. You know not what for, only that it must be safe for ‘centuries’. “He had no particular destination in mind, only that he had to find somewhere distinctive and sheltered, somewhere where the pattern of the ridges and crests might retain their shape for centuries to come… Forests might be cut down or burn or drowned when a river bursts its banks. Fire and word and flood. Only the mountains stood firm.”
Click here to visit the Kate Mosse website, which is packed with information about her novels, videos, location facts and creative writing advice.
Click here to watch Kate talk about Citadel, myths and fantasy.
Click here to watch the Booktopia interview with Kate Mosse, talking about why historical fiction is having ‘a moment’ now.
‘Citadel’ by Kate Mosse [published by Orion]