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The Porcelain Dove or Constancy's Reward Paperback – Jul 1994

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Berthe Duvet, chambermaid to a French duchess, narrates this tale of eighteenth-century Paris, describing the dazzling world of Marie Antoinette, Beaumarchais, and the Marquis de Sade, already living in the shadow of the guillotine. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Fabulous! 1 Dec. 1999
By Jessica - Published on
Format: Paperback
Why are there no reviews of this wonderful novel? Sure, it's out of print and annoyingly hard to find, but once it has been found, shipped, and bought, The Porcelain Dove is well worth the hassle of obtaining it.
Set during the French Revolution, narrarated by Berthe, the Femme de Chambre of a large chateau set far back in the French countryside, The Porcelain Dove is a wonderful tale of magic, misery, poverty, humor, wealth, social revolt, hatred, mercy, love, curses and journeys. In short, it contains everything, and with such an authentic voice and eye for detail that the reader cannot help but half-believe this story really was written by a woman growing up in the end of the eighteenth century.
All of the characters in this novel are realistic and multideminsional and interesting, and the narrarator is a gem; intelligent, truthful, and both romantic and pragmatic at once.
The biggest problem others (critics, etc.) seem to have with this novel is that it is too long and lumbering. All I can say is, Moby Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath, A Tale of Two Cities, and almost every other classic, beloved book is long and lumbering and slow, which is probably why kids hate reading them in school. However, far from being a handicap, I think such asides and digressions and tangents actually enrich the stories, rather than draw away from them. In a world full of pulp stories and generic Danielle Steele and fast-paced trash, classics that take a long time to read and immerse oneself in stand out simply because of the obvious care and attention and love that went into such works. The extra effort it takes to read through a long and complicated and dense novel makes the experience that much richer, and rather than a chore, I almost always find the supposed *slow* parts of the novel the most interesting and fun parts to read.
So, I advise any one who enjoys a wonderful, well-written, unique and satisfying story to search out The Porcelain Dove, and ENJOY.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A gorgeous, thought-provoking Adult Fairy Tale 27 Dec. 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most extraordinary fairy-tale inspired novels I've ever read. Based on old French fairy tales, this magical historical novel concerns an aristocratic family during the years of the French Revolution. Intelligent, beautifully written, and subtle, the surface story (the magical part of the tale) is entertaining and enchanting, but what really makes this book special and memorable is Sherman's subtext: a subtle, dry, witty, and sharply pointed examination of gender and class issues. If you're looking for an historical novel (with magic around the edges) that is smart and challenging, I can't recommend this one highly enough. I've just finished re-reading The Porcelain Dove(after reading the author's excellent new book The Fall of Kings), and it leaves me wishing that someone would bring this fine, under-rated book back into print.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Slow and somewhat contrived, this is nevertheless an imaginative and enjoyable fairy tale. Recommended 27 Jun. 2008
By Juushika - Published on
Format: Paperback
In eighteen century France, Berthe Duvet becomes chambermaid to Adèle du Fourchet, later the Duchess of Malvoeux. Centuries later, Berthe tells the story of a curse placed on the Duke's family which drove them all to madness and isolation until the youngest child and only daughter set out, against the backdrop of revolutionary France, to bring back the porcelain dove and break the curse. A lush period piece overlayed by both French society and everpresent magic, The Porcelain Dove is somewhat contrived but is still an enjoyable and imaginative novel. The story moves slowly and the period-styled language may turn away some readers, but Sherman's protagonist is sharp-witted, her characters vivid, and the heavy influence of magic sets her book apart. I recommend it.

The Porcelain Dove is somewhat difficult to summarize--the curse placed on the family and the porcelain dove that will break it lies at the heart of the book yet makes up only a fraction of the plot. For the rest, Berthe leisurely recounts her own and Adèle's lives, lingering sometimes on the fantastical--such as the Duke's obsession with birds--and sometimes on the wholly mundane. Nor does the plot tend towards contemporary politics, despite the revolutionary setting. The book moves at a slow pace, pushing the titular aspects to the end and making the text seem somewhat longer than its 400 pages, although it never quite becomes boring. Furthermore, Berthe writes in the language appropriate to her time and setting, and so the text is heavy with "tis" and "twas" as well as more than a handful of French phrases--and these aspects, too, weight down the book. The overall style feels somewhat contrived and just a little unbelievable, and it may deter some readers.

However, beyond these aspects (and in the case of the slow storytelling, sometimes because of them), Sherman nevertheless weaves an intriguing tale. Berthe is a servant, but her story is larger than life--a witty narrator, she writes from isolated, heavenly immortality; the house she serves is plagued by curses and obsessions; magic overlays almost all of her story. Sherman is not shy of magic and does not constrain it to hints and glimpses, but rather, almost like a character, it takes a central role. As a result, everything becomes brighter, a little more absurd, and is set on a grander scale. These magical aspects are not always positive, but where they are dark they are also amusingly absurd, and even where they create conflict they do so in a way which, not unlike the a fairy tale, spin a fantastic story for the reader.

I picked up The Porcelain Dove because I've recently begun reading "fantasy of manners" novels, but this book contains little of the plotting and social intrigue that generally defines the genre and concentrates much more on those overt fantasy elements which are usually dismissed. In that respect the book was something of a disappointment, but read for its own right I'm quite glad I picked up this novel. For those with an appetite for slower moving novels and with the patience to read through the contrived language, this book offers a magical tale. While not perfect and in some ways unmemorable, The Porcelain Dove is a welcome change from usual historical fiction, mixing a period setting with imaginative fantasy and a sharp narrator. I enjoyed it, and I recommend it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Must Read 28 Nov. 2014
By Susan Franzblau - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a brilliant book and one of my all-time favorites. Ms. Sherman manages to create a spellbinding tale, seamlessly weaving fairytale magic with the facts and people of the French Revolution. The plot is fascinating, with surprises, but, despite the magic, always realistic and real. The characters are human and they live in this book and in your heart. Her writing is exquisite, carrying you along on a wonderful adventure with a mood that's graceful yet sinister, but in the end absolutely satisfying.
A fascinating novel 8 April 2006
By J. F Palmer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This novel is fascinating and beautifully written. Yes, you have to be read through a mid size book, but why is that such a problem for people? The writing, the mystery and the setting are all enough to be page turners for me.It is so refreshing to come across a book that doesn't fall back on cliches. I'm planning on rereading it, as well recommending it to friends.
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