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Lysbeth Review by Nancy WagnerBy: H. Rider Haggard
EditedRevised and Edited by Michael J. McHugh
Christian Liberty Press
502 West Euclid Avenue
Arlington Heights, Il 60004
This is a book of historical fiction originally written in 1900 about the struggle of Christians in the Netherlands during the Spanish Inquisition in the 1500s. The characters of Lysbeth and her family are fiction, but the settings and struggles of non-Catholics in that era are reported very realistically, although not in graphic detail. This book is not for children for that very reason.
Lysbeth is a young, orphaned Dutchwoman, gentle born and with an inheritance, around the year 1544. The Spanish ruled the land and the monarch was King Charles V, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, including Spain and Netherlands. His major batters were against Protestant and Jewish strongholds in France and the Netherlands. He was followed by his son, King Phillip II, in 1556. Phillip was very militant and bent on exterminating Protestants and Jews in the Netherlands. He reestablished the system of religious courts known as the Inquisition. Anyone even accused of being a heretic (non Catholic) could and would be brought before the tribunal and tortured to either repent and join the Catholic Church or die in rather horrible fashion.
The story itself is a tragic romance. Lysbeth is trapped into marriage with a Spaniard to save her beloved, who is a Protestant. However, the Spaniard wants only her inheritance, which he soon spends down to a pittance. It is discovered that he has another family in Spain and is taken forcibly back to Spain to spend some years in prison, but not before Lysbeth finds that she is pregnant. Lysbeth, who is Catholic initially, finds herself pregnant without money or a husband, and her Protestant beloved comes to the rescue. She becomes a "heretic," they are married and raise the son and also a second son in Protestant faith. The story then follows with both the first and second generation and their persecutions by the Spaniards.
I recommend this book for teenagers and adults because of its factual representation of the persecution, but it is not graphic in detail so even squeamish adults should be able to read it comfortably. It is a story about Christian martyrdom and the times. In between my reading times, I was drawn back to thinking about the story, a mark of a well written and multi-layered story.