Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Two Crosses by Elizabeth Musser

Two Crosses is the first volume in a historical fiction trilogy.  Set in Southern France in the 1960s at a time when Algeria was fighting to get complete independence from France, Musser's writing will take readers from quaint bakeries with mysterious missions to the hidden rooms on the back streets of Algeria.  Caught in a complex division of factions are "pieds-noir" (black foots), those French nationals who had been born and lived their whole lives in Algeria.  A new Algeria would not want them and they did not feel French.  Also considered outsiders and undesireables were a group of Muslims.  An underground terrorist group plans to see that both groups are eliminated. As the book opens, Gabriella, a young college student and daughter of African missionaries, has come to Southern France to study.  Her program is under the auspices of a Catholic nun, who also runs an orphanage.  Little does Gabriella know that her Hugenot cross, a gift from her mother, will make her both an accomplice in a secret scheme to rescue young refugees from the Algerian conflict, and then a target herself.
This novel did a superb job in making the Algerian conflict come alive.  We are again witnesses to the destructive raminifications of resentment, prejudice, and revenge.  An innocent child is separated from her mother, who becomes the victim of a terrorist group.  The Protestant Hugenot heritage is woven into the story and the cooperation between the nun and her new Hugenot friend is heartfelt. 

Gabriella faces some hard truths as she faces life on her own in France, at the same time she experiences the first moments of romance.  However, secrets and danger seem likely to end that romance before it becomes a reality. 

As I've said numerous times before, I am delighted when a title adds to my understanding of the past.
This title certainly filled in some gaps in my understanding of that time period.  Although I knew from the first page that this book was part of a series, I was not prepared for the ending which demands that I get my hands on the second volume ASAP.  How unfair, when I have a stack of other books to read first and so little time for reading!!

Elizabeth Musser and her husband are missionaries in France.  This book was published in 1998, but I've noticed that the final volume was just published recently.  I don't know if it has taken that long to finish the series, or if the books were originally French titles and the final volume has just been published here.  Whatever the timeline, Musser is another Christian author who can weave a compelling story.  After this series, I hope to find out what else she has written.

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