John’s father, a Huguenot in southern France, was arrested by Father Francis and sentenced to the galleys for life. A few years later the same priest snatched away John’s little sister Manette and sent her to Paris. John’s mother died of grief, and not much later Father Francis let it be known that he was aware of John’s absence at mass, a punishable offence. Then, desperate not to deny his Huguenot faith, 16 year-old John fled.
John survived in the woods while Father Francis forced the villagers to search for him, he escaped from the treachery of a sneaky coachman, and he faced starvation. On his journey, he encountered cruelty and kindness, baskets and disguises, ingenuity and grace.
My children couldn’t wait to find out how John survived the long trek to Paris, searched for Manette, and avoided capture. We were spellbound from start to finish.
The Escape is a well-crafted novel about real, lovable, believing young people. It carries a strong message of encouragement for today’s youth as they face temptations and trials so different from those of the past, but it is in no way ‘preachy’. Besides being a wonderful story to read or read aloud, it also accurately (and with frequent footnotes) portrays a significant period in French history. Thus it is an excellent supplement to a study of history or church history.
My 9 year-old daughter is very anxious about John’s father, still slaving on the galleys, so we will soon read the sequel, The Secret Mission.
Note: Awkward sentence structures and other ‘Dutch-isms’ bothered me when I read the book out loud, but each time I read it to myself, I was too interested in the story to notice.
Disclosure: We bought this book several years ago and I am pleased to share a personal favorite with you.