HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: My Escape from the Auto De Fe at Valladolid, October, 1559
Author: Don Fernando de la Mina
Illustrator: Chad Jerrill
Publisher: A.B. Publishing, 2005
Related website: http://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 12 and up but suitable for everyone
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Mina, Don Fernando de la. My Escape from the Auto De Fe at Valladolid, October, 1559 (originally published by the Protestant Truth Society, London, England; republished in 2005 by AB Publishing Inc. 3039 S. Bagley Rd., Ithaca, MI 48847). In 1559, 25-year-old Fernando de la Mina (Don is a title, not a name) is a rich Spanish nobleman living on his family’s estate, the Castillete de la Mina, in Simanacas, and is engaged to marry his beloved neighbor Dona Rosa de Riello. His mother had died giving birth to him, and his father was killed at the battle of San Quentin two years ago. However, both Fernando and Rosa had become secret adherents of the Reformation. While entertaining friends on his birthday, Fernando is arrested by the Spanish Inquisition and sentenced to death for “heresy.” However, just before he is to be burned at the stake in the Auto de Fe (“act of faith,” a misnomer if there ever was one), he makes his escape, which he attributes to the providence of God.
De la Mina is able to disguise himself by “changing places” in a country church with a traveling peddler who had been killed by lightning. However, learning that his fiancée is also about to be arrested, he helps her and her trusted maid Ana, to escape as well, though unrecognized by them. Their aim is to make it to Protestant Navarre in southern France, and from there to Paris where he has a relative. At that time, France was much more tolerant of religious differences. The book covers their flight as they manage to keep just one step ahead of Father Lorenzo, a cousin and priest whom he suspects of having turned him and Dona Rosa in, and the Captain of the Inquisition Guard. Will they make it? I first heard about this book from a “Living Literature” article by Betty Burger in the Sept./Oct., 2004, issue of Homeschooling Today. Several editions are available, including those by Shiloh Publications (1997) and Zeezok Publishing (2012).
Someone asked, “Does anyone know if this book is historical fact or fiction?” The subtitle says, “A Story Founded on Historic Fact and Re-told by Pastor Wm. Timms.” But does this mean that it is a true story or could it be a fiction story that is simply placed in a historical setting? It is presented as an actual account written by de la Mina himself for his son, and while I have not been able to establish any independent confirmation of its truthfulness, the natural assumption, in the absence of any solid proof otherwise, is that it is historical fact. Even if it could be shown to be fiction, it still gives a very accurate portrayal of what it was like to have lived at this time and of the viciousness of the Spanish Inquisition. Mrs. Burger wrote, “This book, through the Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and to the point where Fernando and his wife safely reach England, shows God’s intervention on behalf of individuals who love Him. It both strengthens and challenges our faith.” We did the book as a family read aloud; everyone liked it, and it is a good way to learn a little about this era of church history.