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28

TUESDAY

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In the preface to her new book, The Treasure of Montsegur, set in 13th-century Europe, Sophy Burnham writes that “speech and attitudes [were] so foreign to our modern comprehension….” But the dialogue she creates in telling the story of the Cathars, a sect of Christianity viciously stamped out by the Catholic Church, was written for a 2002 ear: “Chin up,” a friend tells heroine Jeanne a few hundred pages later. Though the finished product might have been more interesting had Burnham attempted to duplicate those centuries-old speech habits, the dialogue’s contemporary veneer makes the story go down easily. (Once or twice, she seems to parody a Harlequin romance, employing phrases such as “the manliness between his legs.”) Burnham conveys the man-on-the-street hopelessness wrought by the Inquisition very well. And it’s easy to get caught up in Jeanne’s story, which traces that of the besieged Cathars, while shifting deftly between two narratives that eventually converge. Burnham also reads Thursday, May 30, at Olsson’s, but tonight she begins at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (JD)