Davis takes a deep look into the lives of the peasants to probe what drives them and what so eagerly fuels their individualistic desires. Davis also details the life of the peasants in not only one specific place, but also details the customs of numerous places such as Hendaye, Artigat, and the court at Rieux in a contrast/compare style. Davis builds a world of stairs where those on the lowest rung are always looking somewhere higher up, yet they are always able to keep a taut rein on their lives.
The characters of this tale are brought to a startling realism by Davis-she details every possible thought and action that could have led them down the path that they chose, and she even speculates on alternatives to the choice they made. She shows the life of the real Martin Guerre as full of regret and disgust at things gone wrong. His wife, Bertrande de Rols, is expressed as a manipulator that is always weighing her options and scheming to rise ahead.
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