That’s Kate Mosse the writer not Kate Moss the super model. The three books in Kate Mosse’s best- selling Languedoc trilogy are “Labyrinth”, “Sepulchre” and “Citadel”, each one set in or around Carcassonne at an important point in the city’s history and in each one Carcassonne itself has a starring role.
Kate Mosse’s own interest in the Languedoc started when she and her husband bought a small house just outside Carcassonne’s Cité back in 1989. She has said that she feels history is alive in the Languedoc and this is reflected in the way her books are written, slipping between different time periods. She also includes words or phrases (with translations) in Occitan in the books, which adds to their atmosphere.
The first book “Labyrinth” is set in 13th century Carcassonne, at the time of the crusade by the Catholic Church against the Cathars. The heroine is Alais, a young girl from a Cathar family. In the 21st century time-slip story Alice Tanner, a young archaeologist, discovers two skeletons in a forgotten cave in the Pyrenees.
The next book “Sepulchre” moves to the late 19th century and to an isolated country house near Carcassonne, where 17 year old Leonie Vernier finds a ruined sepulchre. A pack of old tarot cards play an important part in the book, reflecting the interest in mysticism and the supernatural at that era in France. This time the 21st century story has a young American woman, Meredith Martin, arriving at the same country house to research a biography.
The final book “Citadel” takes place at the time of the Nazi occupation of France during the Second World War. Young Sandrine who lives in the Bastide, Carcassonne’s lower town, becomes a member of an all-female group of French resistance fighters. At the front of the book is a map of the Bastide and it’s interesting to locate events in the book on the map, particularly if you know the place. The time slip goes back to the story of a young monk in 4th century Languedoc. The final chapter is a spectacular end to the whole trilogy.
The books are not highbrow literature, but good yarns and worth reading if you are interested in the area and its history. The best way to describe them is that they are historical adventure stories in which women are the active heroines. However the books in the trilogy are lengthy reads. If you feel like starting with something set in the Languedoc but a bit shorter try Kate Mosse’s “The Winter Ghosts”, which moves between the 1930s and the time of the Cathars. Both my twenty-something sons (one a voracious reader, the other not) read this book in a day when on holiday at our house in Castelnaudary.
That’s probably the best time to read one or all of these books, on holiday, if you want something entertaining but not too challenging. Best of all probably if you are on holiday in the Languedoc.