39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
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.