‘Listen to the Wind’

  • "Listen to the Wind" by Susanne Dunlap. Susane Dunlap—

Staff Writer
Published: 7/4/2019 9:00:18 AM

Readers will be hooked from the start of Northampton author Susanne Dunlap’s new historical fiction novel “Listen to the Wind,” which is the first of a medieval trilogy titled “The Orphans of Tolosa.”

Dunlap, who has previously authored six other historical fiction novels, writes at an easy pace. Her sentences are concise and the narrative, which follows two orphans trying to survive in 13th-Century France, drives easily forward. 

When they’re very young, Azemar and Azalais are sent away for their own protection — who they are and where they come from is an important plot point that plays out later in the book. Before page 20, they become separated while fleeing from outlaws. Much of the remaining 350 or so pages tracks their journey to find each other again. 

Inbetween, the orphans develop resilience and learn to survive in brutal conditions. 

The book was published in April by Bellastoria Press. In the past, Dunlap has worked as the managing director of Pioneer Valley Symphony and as a senior copywriter at the now-defunct Channing Bete in South Deerfield. She has a Ph. D in music history from Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Her interest in history and affinity for art is apparent throughout the book. While grounded in real-world events, the novel’s narrative arc is spontaneous and organic.

At times, Dunlap’s writing is raw, reflecting the adventurous scenes she relates. Other times, it’s tender — even in the midst of battle.

“Azemar reached the top of the wall and climbed over to stand on the ramparts. The lad backed away, fear dancing in his eyes. He turned to see how he might locate the seneschal, or whoever had been left to defend the castel in the baron’s absence, and froze. Before him on the ramparts, her face and hands bloodied and her tunic torn, stood a lady.”

Elsewhere, Azemar composes a letter to Azalais: “It was difficult to concentrate on using the correct form for the verses when he simply wanterd to pour out his heart to Azalais. Beautiful lady, he began. Bella domna. It was a courtly convention. Every lady was beautiful. Yet Azemar paused after writing those words and stood, staring at the tapestry behind Corbiu’s desk. Azalais was beautiful. The scraped and scraggly little girl who had shared his hardships and adventures had grown into a woman with soft, gray eyes and lips that promised sweet kisses.”

According to Dunlap, this first book of “The Orphans of Tolosa” trilogy took more than a decade to publish. She will be reading selections from “Listen to the Wind” at the Greenfield Public Library on July 8 beginning at 7 p.m.  

Before then and if the weekend affords leisure time over the long Independence Day holiday, “Listen to the Wind” is a worthwhile and compelling summer read. Find the book on paperback or Amazon Kindle at amzn.to/2xqhYTz

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com.

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