HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Paula, the Waldensian
Author: Eva Lecomte
Cover Illustrator: James Converse
Publisher: A. B. Publishing, republished in 1997
Related website: www.abpub.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 9-12, but suitable for everyone
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Lecomte, Eva. Paula, the Waldensian (originally published perhaps in the late 1890s; republished in 1997 by A. B. Publishing Inc., Ithaca, MI). Nine-year-old Lisita lives in a French village near Paris on the road from Rouen to Darnetal with her father Charles, a well-to-do businessman, her ten-year-old brother Louis, her fifteen-year-old sister Rosa, her older, invalid sister Catalina, and their housekeeper Teresa Rouland. Lisita’s mother died when she was an infant, and her father, though generally a kind man, was so bitter at his wife’s death that he forbade anyone in his house from going to church, reading the Bible, or even talking about God. Then they receive a letter saying that their ten-year-old cousin Paula, the daughter of their mother’s sister who had also died, lost her father, their Uncle John, as well and would have to come from her home in the village of Villar in the far-off Waldensian valley of northern Italy to live with them.
Paula had been raised to be a very firm believer in God, and her most precious possession is the Bible that her father had given her just before his death. How will Paula react to the religious restrictions of her new home? And how will Lisita’s family react to the influence of Paula? The book was originally written in French and then translated into Spanish. It found its way to Chile, South America, where it was discovered by a missionary, W. M. Strong, and translated into English. I had heard of it for years and always assumed that the action took place in the days when the work of Peter Waldo led to the formation of the Waldensian Church, around the twelfth century. No date is given in the story, but its setting is more recent than that. One source says that “the earliest printing of the book was in the late 1890s, so that would give a time frame of mid to late 19th century for when the events occurred.” One of the songs which Paula sings is “No Night There” beginning, “In the land of fadeless day,” which was copyrighted in 1899. So unless this song was substituted by the English translator for another that was in the original, the book could not have been written before then.
The story is supposed to be true or at least based on real happenings, although the author most likely used literary license to fill in the gaps of conversations and perhaps changed names. She writes in the Preface as though she were Lisita now “living in the little town of Villar,” although some versions of the book’s Preface put Villar-Pellice in France, when it actually lies on the Italian side of the Alps as indicated in the story itself. The book has been published by several conservative Christian publishers. I just happened to pick up the edition from A. B. Publishing at a homeschool conference. There are references to praying for salvation and decorating a Christmas tree in the local village chapel. However, overall Paula the Waldensian is a wonderful book. Without giving away the conclusion, I will say that it is a tear-jerker at the end. There is sadness, but there is also a sense of triumph. We did it as a family read aloud, and everyone enjoyed it, even through our slightly misty eyes.