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The Book of Human Skin [Paperback]

Michelle Lovric
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Book Description

20 Jun 2011
The book of human skin is a large volume with many pages of villainy writ upon it.
There are people who are a disease, you know.

13 May, 1784, Venice: Minguillo Fasan, heir to the decaying, gothic Palazzo Espagnol, is born. Yet Minguillo is no ordinary child: he is strange, devious and all those who come near him are fearful. Twelve years later Minguillo is faced with an unexpected threat to his inheritance: a newborn sister, Marcella. His untempered jealousy will condemn his sister to a series of fates as a cripple, a madwoman and a nun. But in his insatiable quest to destroy her, he may have underestimated his sister's ferocious determination, and her unlikely allies who will go to extraordinary lengths to save her...

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (20 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408809648
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408809648
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'This book is fabulous - funny, horrific, subversive - in short a wholly addictive read. I don't think I have enjoyed anything as much since Perfume' (Joanne Harris)

'If it doesn't scoop all the prizes, we live in an unjust world. It's an absolute corker ... It's years since I enjoyed a novel this much - or felt such strong envy of an author for having the breadth and richness of imagination to create such a world' (A.N. Wilson)

'This is, essentially, a love story told by a delightfully riotous collection of characters and voices ... Fantastically gripping' (Marie Claire)

'A witty, exciting, over-the-top page-turner which becomes increasingly addictive... Quite unlike anything else around - and all the better for that' (Daily Mail)

Book Description

This is going to be a little uncomfortable...

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable 18 April 2010
If you've never read a book by Michelle Lovric before, read this one. Read it first for the story, a heart-stopping journey of innocence and resilience struggling for survival against the kind of evil that makes Hannibal Lecter look cuddly. You'll need to keep putting it down to recover (especially when you get to the convent in Peru!) but you'll also have to keep picking it up again just to see what happens. I don't want to give away too much, but the ending is thoroughly satisfying and ultimately cleansing - and I would have wanted to strangle the author had it been any other way.
But I'd recommend reading it again anyway, just for the joy of the verbal pyrotechnics and the artistry that creates such evocative atmosphere. Lovric is already renowned for her powerful sense of place, but in this book personality breathes from the locations as tangibly as sweat oozes from the pores of the skin. Phantasmagoria worthy of Gormenghast but based firmly in a very real historical world, characters that speak in voices you'll hear in your head (and in your dreams afterwards), this book is a dazzling multi-media of a painting that combines the vision of 'The Old Curiosity Shop' (without the sentimentality of Little Nell) with the darkness of 'Justine'(without de Sade's salaciousness)and tosses the reader between light and dark, good and evil with the irritating effortlessness of a master.
This isn't a book for the emotionally squeamish, or anyone who doesn't enjoy digging below the skin of human experience. For anyone else it's simply unmissable. I will never forget it.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully Disgusting! 17 Aug 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the first book that I have read by Michelle Lovric and I'm so glad I picked it up! Lovric's style of writing flows beautifully, and her language and descriptions are so vibrant and colourful - you are truly transported to Venice and Peru when you read it.

When you first start reading the book you are confronted with five characters introducing themselves in diary-style sections highlighted through changes in font. I was initially skeptical - other books I have read using this style have been jumbled and chaotic but Lovric mastered it! All of the characters had interesting sections and as much as I personally preferred those by Gianni and Sor Loreta there were none that dragged or failed to intrigue.

I did find the book uncomfortable, Minguillo's sections are truly sadistic and Sor Loreta's are positively frightful (to put it simply she is a beyond deranged nun) but at the same time they are strangely engrossing - I did have to put the book down in places to recover but I couldnt help but pick it up again five minutes later!
Cecilia Cornaro is a delightful character adding a dose of much needed wit - I only wish she was given her own voice in the story.

The only place I thought the book fell down was with Marcella's character. I didn't find her convincing and she didn't seem to portray the 'ferocious determination' outlined in the books blurb - throughout the story I wanted her to put up more of a fight. Realistically, I think anyone who has endured what she has would have shown more emotional development and a stronger resilience - I didnt find her wishing for Minguillo's survival after all of his tortures beliavable at all.

All in all it is a delightful read that will not fail to disgust and ensnare!
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stirring! 26 Mar 2010
Five years after The Remedy comes the author's new novel for adults. This time she steps out of her Venice/London comfort zones and sets the action half in Venice and half in Peru, in the late 18th Century. The story tells of a Venetian merchant's family, where the father's frequent trips to Arequipa leaves behind a son whose behaviour goes beyond evil and a daughter whose goodness is surprisingly strong enough to cope. Things getting much worse is what the novel is all about, so I'll not give much more away. But as the plot develops the Santa Catalina convent in Arequipa is a considerable centre of the action - the cloistered life being a not unusual theme in the author's works. The story is told by the main characters, in their own voices, and even in different fonts. Ms L's ability to be these different characters borders on the spooky - this is writing to relish and, I think, a good big notch up from her previous work in power and range. You'll need a pretty unsqueamish taste for fleshy concerns and visceral detail too, as physical afflictions and infections are dealt with in unflinching detail. The life of a person being written on their skin is a major theme here - the clue's there in the title. Venetian detail takes a back seat to the narrative sweep this time, but the city is still an essential element, with no other place possible for the plot's purposes. Fans of Michelle Lovric's previous work will also revel in the reappearance of Cecilia Cornaro, who has appeared in two of her previous novels, as a very central character. This novel will worm its way into your brain, get under your skin, and if your heart isn't faint it's in for more than a fair amount of activity too.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but ending was poor 8 Aug 2011
By Mysay
This isn't a full review just my thoughts having just finished this book.

I really got into it and was enjoying it greatly. There were strong and interesting characters and the structure of the storytelling through a number of characters and short passages was a good device for making the book difficult to put down.

All was well until I guess about 2/3 of the way through when it seemed that the publisher or author had deccided that the book needed to be finished and it rushed to what I thought was a predictable and very implausible conclusion given the actions and characters developed so well in the rest of the book. Once I lost belief in the action it made me look back and question the rest of the book. Would character x really have done y, wouldn't they have done z? The disbelief I had suspended came to the fore.

The writer clearly loves research. The detail of a surgeon's life, or a nun's, or a woman's in Venice, really added to the enjoyment. Sometimes though it seemed a bit forced and things shoe-horned in. The characters, the wicked one, the surgeon and the faithful servant were well drawn, the heroine rather less so.

Perhaps the point it failed for me was when the romance came to the fore, or was it just when strong characters started to behave oddly, or rather random plot devices were thrown in - the lost will?

Anyway - worth a read but not a 4.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it
Read it a couple of years ago, and I just reread it. The story stays with you. The characters are dynamic and the story just grabs you. A must read for historical fiction fans.
Published 23 hours ago by Janelle Tumlos
5.0 out of 5 stars book of human skin
my wife asked for the book for her book club i found it straight away ,its been well received and read, just what she wanted when she wanted many thanksbook
Published 2 months ago by arthur radford
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary read - a real page turner
This is an extraordinary book, well paced and with some fascinating characters. I couldn't put it down - all of the characters are so well drawn and woven into the historical... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Helen
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC
Fantastic read once you get through the first 100 pages. Enjoyed this book immensely - but hard going to start.
Published 2 months ago by Glenmor reader
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Found this 'strong meat'..
Published 2 months ago by annie mccabe
5.0 out of 5 stars This is going to be a little uncomfortable
A rich and grotesque read... ok I read the death of Tupac Amaru with my eyes shut, so to speak, but enjoyed the rest very much indeed with its vivid, highly-flavoured prose and... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Helen Bennett
5.0 out of 5 stars THANKS
Published 5 months ago by Grace Hutchinson
5.0 out of 5 stars One to tell everyone about
This is my favourite book. I have read it many many times and have also bought many copies.
mainly because when you try to tell people how good it is, rather than risk then... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr B J Wolski
3.0 out of 5 stars different !
This book was recommended by someone. I enjoyed reading it but it did go on a bit too long and had a nice, tidy happy ending. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jane Page
5.0 out of 5 stars Blissful reading
What a find! A story that draws you in with larger than life characters, a suspenseful plot, deliciously despicable villains and wonderful writing throughout. An absolute treat
Published 12 months ago by H Caulfield
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