A Swallow Press Book
By Janet Lewis
“The musty, historical episode surrounding the publication of a scurrilous pamphlet against Louis XIV and Madame de Maintenon (formerly Mme. Scarron) serves as background to this novel which brilliantly explores the excesses of the French court. Seventeenth century life is examined in terms of both the aristocracy and the working people. In fact, one of the most effective elements in the novel is the description of the daily life of a bookbinder and his family. The essential humanity of the characters dominates the sometimes grim plot which blends truth and imagination. And, as always, Janet Lewis writes with wonderful lucidity.”
“A poetic work which exerts a spell-binding effect on the reader…it is with such as Hawthorne that this exquisite and authoritative writer should be ranked.”
This third novel in the three Cases of Circumstantial Evidence provides an intimate portrayal of deception and corruption in one small poor Parisian family in the late 1600s. In contrast to the majesty of the court of Louis XIV and the bloodthirsty crowds of Paris at that time, the simple lives of Jean Larcher and his wife and son are pitiably ruined by the presence of a seducer and his political pamphlets. The result: personal and public passions mesh to hang an innocent man.
Janet Lewis was a novelist, poet, and short-story writer whose literary career spanned almost the entire twentieth century. The New York Times has praised her novels as “some of the 20th century’s most vividly imagined and finely wrought literature.” Born and educated in Chicago, she lived in California for most of her adult life and taught at both Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. Her works include The Wife of Martin Guerre (1941), The Trial of Sören Qvist (1947), The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron (1959), Good-Bye, Son and Other Stories (1946), and Poems Old and New (1982). More info →
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This historical novel is the third and final book in American poet and fiction writer Janet Lewis’s Cases of Circumstantial Evidence series, based on legal case studies compiled in the nineteenth century. In The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron, Lewis returns to her beloved France, the setting of The Wife of Martin Guerre, her best-known novel and the first in the series.
The Wife of Martin Guerre—based on a notorious trial in sixteenth-century France—is “one of the most significant short novels in English” (Atlantic Monthly). Originally published in 1941, it still raises questions about identity, belonging, and about an individual’s capacity to act within an inflexible system.
Originally published in 1947, The Trial of Sören Qvist has been praised by a number of critics for its intriguing plot and Janet Lewis’s powerful writing. And in the introduction to this new edition, Swallow Press executive editor and author Kevin Haworth calls attention to the contemporary feeling of the story—despite its having been written more than fifty years ago and set several hundred years in the past.