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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Another Joanne Harris Masterpiece
Once again Joanne Harris has written a superb novel, in my opinion it’s the best one yet. She takes you to a small Abbey in a French village where life is comfortable, but something bad is in the air. King Henry is dead and a new Reform is on the way especially with the Church. Old wounds are opened and everyone’s dedication and belief questioned. The story is...
Published on 28 May 2003

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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Harris's first book not about food!
Having read all of Harris's other novels and having thoroughly enjoyed them I was really looking forward to Holy Fools. Unfortunately I was a tad disappointed with this one. I guessed what was going to happen in the plot sooner than I was supposed to have done (perhaps now that I am used to her style) and so the ending was a little disappointing.
Her writing has...
Published on 2 Jan 2004


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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Another Joanne Harris Masterpiece, 28 May 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Holy Fools (Hardcover)
Once again Joanne Harris has written a superb novel, in my opinion it’s the best one yet. She takes you to a small Abbey in a French village where life is comfortable, but something bad is in the air. King Henry is dead and a new Reform is on the way especially with the Church. Old wounds are opened and everyone’s dedication and belief questioned. The story is set over a six-week period where you feel you have read events for the whole day from morning vigils prayers to evening chapter prayers. The end of each day leaves you wanting more. (I couldn’t put this book down and was actually glad when my train was delayed in the mornings). The character Juliette is strong and resourceful, showing that education back then was as uninviting as the devil himself. The life Juliette thinks she is free from finds her and whether it claims her or not you’ll find out when you read it. The other characters are fantastically depicted and life at a nunnery comes across as amusing, difficult and lonely. I loved the detail and felt like I was at the Abbey myself watching events unfold, truths and lies told and emotions left unchecked. There is nothing that I disliked about the book and I recommend it to anyone who loves magic, mystery and suspense.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating, 5 Oct 2004
This review is from: Holy Fools (Paperback)
I've been a fan of Joanne Harris since reading Chocolat, which is one of my favourite books of all time. I've read all her work and find her style of writing absolutely delicious.

In this book, she tells the story of a woman who tries to break away from her past by joining in a monastery in rural France, though her philosophy is much more gypsy than Christian.

This book is darker and more dramatic than her previous work, but once again, the characters are both compelling and well-drawn, and the plot is unpredictable and captivating.

Short chapters and a flowing storyline make it very easy to read - in fact, I didn't like having to take a break from it and ended up staying up very late one night to finish it.

All in all it's a good book, but it's not quite Chocolat.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A review from South Africa, 4 Jun 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Holy Fools (Hardcover)
Best-selling novelist Joanne Harris returns to France for her lovely new novel, Holy Fools.
Like Coastliners which precedes it, Holy Fools is set on the French coast, except this time most of the action takes place at an abbey where the main protagonist, Juliette – now living as a nun, Soeur August – has taken refuge with her infant daughter several years before.
Set in the 1600s, it juxtaposes the sometimes extreme religious values held in France at that time, as reflected by the nuns at the abbey of Sainte Marie-de-la-Mer, and those of a rough and secular age, personified by the wandering players of the circus.
Over both of these worlds hovers the spectre of Guy LeMerle, nicknamed the Blackbird – an enigmatic risk-taker who has played a large part in Juliette’s colourful past.
Only he knows that she flew the high-wire as L’Ailée, the winged one, when they travelled the country as performers.
Will he arrive at the abbey and, if so, will it necessarily mean doom for Juliette and her little girl? This solid novel (more than 400 pages) takes the reader on a journey back and forth between Juliette’s two lives and it is not clear until near the end what is going to happen.
As in other Harris novels, religious dogma takes a battering and the free-spirited Juliette is in many ways reminiscent of Vianne Rocher from the gorgeous Chocolat.
Harris writes in a fluid and engaging way, drawing the reader on like a piper ahead of a minstrels’ caravan.
Definitely one for the book club.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, 15 Feb 2009
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This review is from: Holy Fools (Paperback)
I'm glad I didn't read the reviews of this book until I had finished it, because there is such a variety of opinion that I might have lost sight of my own!

On the question of historical accuracy, I agree that it's very important, and a reference to pictures of the young king with the halo of sun behind him did make me do a double-take. But apart from that I couldn't find that Harris had mistaken her kings - references are made to his Medici mother and her removal of Sully, and of his marriage at around the right time, and the whole of the book takes place before Richlieu had entered politics. I can't comment further as that's the extent of my knowledge of French history of this time, but I thought Harris's evocation of time, place and atmosphere was superb.

As to the story itself - Yes, the nuns are a sorry lot with their tics and coughs - but I thought there was nothing of the theatrical freak show about them until the actor LeMerle started to work on them. Then, what were midly irritating mannerisms were exaggerated and intensified to serve his own purpose. I thought the development of Sister Antoine in particular was excellent, as was the extraordinary battle of wills between LeMerle and the child-Abbess Isabelle, so immature and at the same time so frighteningly strong. The fact that each of the nuns was scarred in their own way seemed natural - only such women would end up in an Abbey that had deteriorated so much - materially and religiously - and that had almost fallen off the Church's radar, so that it was more a shelter for the damaged than a House of God. LeMerle had to believe that they were weak enough and damaged enough for him to be able to do as he wanted with them.

The recognisable Harris traits - a particular type of heroine, once again with a young daughter - didn't jar either. The existence of Fleur is necessary to the plot, as is Juliette's own difference from the other women. I too preferred Chocolat and also The Lollipop Shoes, but I read this book in one sitting and couldn't put it down until I'd finished it, and I'll read it again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice, easy read, 25 May 2008
By 
A. Furse "mrs_ratbert" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Holy Fools (Paperback)
Not at all the sort of book I'd usually pick up, but I read this on a recommendation and found that after I got into it I couldn't put it down - I ended up polishing it off in a day. The fact that it was set in the 1610s would usually have put me off, but I found that I could suspend my disbelief after the first few chapters, primarily because of the fascinating way Harris drew the characters: they were complex and subtlely written, and reminded me of people I have known.

Despite my prejudice, I also thought that the differing perspectives worked well, as the narrative flits between two of the main characters. I don't usually like this technique as I find that too many authors do it just for the sake of it, but here it really added to the tension of plot, which kept me guessing right to the end.

Most impressive was that even though I should have seen certain things coming - one of the thematic strands is foresight and a lot is hinted at before it is revealed - I was really gripped by the plot and what was going to happen next. A cracking read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, enchanting - a tapestry of time and people, 15 May 2003
This review is from: Holy Fools (Hardcover)
Joanne Harris has succeeded again in weaving and inter-weaving a complex story with warmth, humour and sometimes deeply troubled characters. These are characters that you feel, see and can almost touch. So powerful was the tale that I simply read and read - yet was sad to see it end. It is truly a wonderful story set deep in French revolutionary history yet it has themes so true, key and poignant to modern live. Seour Auguste is strong, beautiful, confident woman. This is a dark book similar in is depth and forboding to 'Five Quaters of the Orange'. Tension seems to seep from it's every page. Joanna Harris is truly an inspired writer who can write about anything, anyone and any period of time and make a modern audience of all ages and sexes fall in love with the story, the places and the people. Inspired
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting love story, 25 Aug 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Holy Fools (Hardcover)
This has all the wonderful ingredients we've come to expect of Harris' work: a female outsider under threat, luscious descriptions and a dramatic end. I particularly enjoyed the love/hate relationship between the two main characters and the winding road to their very appropriate denouement. It took me a while to get into it, as the actual story took a long time to get going, but once there I just couldn't put it down and had to finish it! Perhaps not as good as "Five Quarters of the Orange" which is my absolute favourite, but still a worthy addition to the Harris collection.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, 6 April 2005
This review is from: Holy Fools (Paperback)
The story of Juliet, a former actress and rope dancer who has given up her former life to become a nun with her young daughter, is mysterious and gripping from the start. The unexpected intrusion of her former lover LeMerle to her new life sparks off a twisting, turning story of cunning, treachery and deceit which, when told in the voices of the two main characters, has the reader struggling to decide whose side to take. It is a story which explores the fine line between love and hate, something that Juliet and LeMerle can't ever seem to work out themselves, even at the end of the story. It also broaches the extremely controversial subject of the effect of a good orator on impressionable minds as LeMerle seeks to create havoc in the quiet lives of the nuns with whom he has come to live. One can draw parallels to many occurrences in recent history where influential people can generate a mass hysteria that it is almost impossible for anyone to control.
The one criticism that I have for this book is that it is sometimes very difficult to remember the names of some of the characters and it can sometimes become confusing as to whom the author is referring, however, this does not mar the wonderful energy of the story.
All in all, definitely worth a read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holy Fools by Joanne Harris, 13 Jan 2013
By 
S. G. Plested "Sylvie" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Holy Fools (Kindle Edition)
She has a wonderful way to describe things and one can visualize the situations in your mind as if watching a film.
Wonderful discriptive language, easy to read, you don't want to put the book down once you started (or kindle) as it may be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing tale, 1 July 2012
By 
Avid reader "Janet" (North Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Holy Fools (Paperback)
A bit darker and less light-hearted than some of Joanne Harris's other novels, set in a remote abbey in seventeenth century France. In a similar story-line to her other novels, Ms Harris's main character is a single female with a daughter, running away from dark forces. There is very good and detailed development of the main characters, and the historical back-cloth is interesting.

Once started, hard to put down, and I read it pretty quickly.
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