The Return of Martin Guerre Book Summary - The Return of Martin Guerre Book explained in key points

The Return of Martin Guerre summary

Natalie Zemon Davis

Brief summary

The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis is a captivating historical account of a notorious impostor in 16th century France. It delves into themes of identity, deception, and the social dynamics of peasant life.

Give Feedback
Table of Contents

    The Return of Martin Guerre
    Summary of key ideas

    Unraveling the Mystery of Martin Guerre

    In The Return of Martin Guerre, Natalie Zemon Davis takes us back to the 16th century, to the small village of Artigat in the Pyrenees. The story begins with the return of Martin Guerre, a young peasant who had abandoned his wife, Bertrande de Rols, and their son, leaving them to fend for themselves. After eight years, a man claiming to be Martin Guerre reappears, and despite Bertrande's initial doubts, she accepts him back into her life.

    As the story unfolds, the villagers' suspicions grow, and the man claiming to be Martin Guerre is eventually accused of being an imposter. The trial that follows is a fascinating exploration of identity, community, and the law. The case is complex, with Bertrande testifying in favor of the man she initially doubted, and the real Martin Guerre's relatives claiming that the man is an imposter.

    The Trial and Its Aftermath

    The trial's outcome is surprising, with the judges initially ruling in favor of the man claiming to be Martin Guerre. However, the real Martin Guerre's relatives refuse to accept the verdict and continue to pursue the case. Eventually, the imposter is exposed, and his true identity is revealed as Arnaud du Tilh, a man who had impersonated Martin Guerre to win Bertrande's love.

    Arnaud is found guilty of the crime of imposture and is sentenced to death. The story could have ended here, but Davis takes us further, exploring the aftermath of the trial. She delves into the lives of the key characters, examining the impact of the trial on Bertrande, the real Martin Guerre, and Arnaud himself.

    Understanding the Imposter's Motives

    One of the most intriguing aspects of The Return of Martin Guerre is Davis' exploration of Arnaud's motives. What led him to impersonate Martin Guerre, and why did Bertrande, who initially doubted him, eventually accept him as her husband? Davis suggests that Arnaud's actions were driven by a desire for a better life and a deep love for Bertrande.

    She also highlights the limitations of the law in dealing with cases of identity and imposture. In the absence of modern forensic techniques, the judges had to rely on witness testimony and circumstantial evidence, making it easier for imposters like Arnaud to deceive the community.

    The Impact of the Trial

    As the trial concludes, Arnaud is executed, and Bertrande is forced to return to the real Martin Guerre. Their marriage, initially arranged when Bertrande was just a teenager, had been unhappy, and the return of the real Martin Guerre only adds to the strain. The story ends on a somber note, with Bertrande and Martin Guerre's future uncertain.

    In conclusion, The Return of Martin Guerre is a captivating blend of historical narrative and legal drama. Davis skillfully reconstructs the events and characters of this intriguing case, shedding light on the complexities of identity, love, and the law in 16th-century France. The book leaves us with a profound understanding of the human condition and the enduring power of a remarkable historical tale.

    Give Feedback
    How do we create content on this page?
    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is The Return of Martin Guerre about?

    The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis is a captivating historical account of a famous case of imposture in 16th-century France. Through meticulous research and vivid storytelling, Davis unravels the mystery surrounding a man who assumes the identity of Martin Guerre and explores the complexities of identity, community, and the pursuit of justice.

    The Return of Martin Guerre Review

    The Return of Martin Guerre (1983) is a captivating historical account that explores the fascinating tale of a 16th-century impostor who takes on the identity of a missing husband. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With detailed research and historical evidence, it brings to life the social and cultural complexities of Renaissance France.
    • The book raises thought-provoking questions about identity, deception, and the power of memory, making it a compelling exploration of human nature.
    • Through its narrative storytelling and skillful analysis, the book manages to turn a historical event into a page-turning mystery.

    Who should read The Return of Martin Guerre?

    • History enthusiasts interested in 16th-century France
    • Readers who enjoy true crime and mystery stories
    • People curious about the complexities of identity and deception

    About the Author

    Natalie Zemon Davis is a renowned historian and author. She has made significant contributions to the field of social and cultural history, particularly in early modern Europe. Davis' work often focuses on the lives of ordinary people and their experiences during this time period. Some of her notable books include "The Return of Martin Guerre," "Society and Culture in Early Modern France," and "Women on the Margins." Through her research and writing, Davis has provided valuable insights into the complexities of the past.

    Categories with The Return of Martin Guerre

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    30 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    The Return of Martin Guerre FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Return of Martin Guerre?

    The main message of The Return of Martin Guerre is the complex nature of identity and the impact of deception on individuals and communities.

    How long does it take to read The Return of Martin Guerre?

    The estimated reading time for The Return of Martin Guerre is a few hours. Reading the Blinkist summary takes just 15 minutes.

    Is The Return of Martin Guerre a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Return of Martin Guerre is a captivating book that offers a fascinating exploration of historical events. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of The Return of Martin Guerre?

    The author of The Return of Martin Guerre is Natalie Zemon Davis.

    What to read after The Return of Martin Guerre?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Return of Martin Guerre, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Coaching for Performance by Sir John Whitmore
    • The Portfolio Life by Christina Wallace
    • The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
    • Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
    • The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo
    • Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
    • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
    • How to Win Friends & Influence People# by Dale Carnegie
    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
    • Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton