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Spirit of Lost Angels: 18th Century French Revolution Novel (The Bone Angel Trilogy) Kindle Edition
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But I don't love this. I just can't recommend it much as I want to. Why? It lacks the writer's tools of: engage, cut the description and move on the pace.
There is so much here that could be brilliant. I loved the scenes in the prison and meeting the well-known and real Comtesse. If only the book had started there and made a gripping plot just out of that...
Only it does not. We get a long run in of childhood which gives little flavour of the action to come. By the time we get to the Necker affair we are in the middle of the book - and just as that grabs us we go back for a tearful reunion back home on the farm.
With a redraft and an edit...cutting out a chunk of the start...this writer has a super subject and period. The action and pace just lets it down.
Reviewed for Rosie Amber's Book Review Team. I was supplied with an ARC for an honest review, for which I will receive no payment.
Spirit of Lost Angels is Liza Perrat's debut novel, and revolves around Victoire Charpentier, a peasant living in the village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. It is linked to the later book, Blood Rose Angel, by the bone angel talisman passed down through generations. This first novel in the trilogy takes place in the years leading up to the French Revolution.
Victoire's life is one of tragic events indeed, as she loses those she loves to accident, illness, the danger and politics of the times, and at the careless hands of the nobility. Cast into a brutal Parisian prison, she meets the notorious Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Remy who inspires within her the fire of revolution; I liked the inclusion of a real-life character in this work of fiction. All the way through the book I appreciated the amount of research that has gone into writing this novel ~ such an entertaining way to fill in the gaps in my education. I enjoyed reading about the lives of the rural peasants in the beginning of the book, and comparing this with the medieval life in Lucie, four hundred years earlier, in Blood Rose Angel.
Throughout the book, the gaping chasm between the lives of the poor and those of the ludicrously self-indulgent aristocracy is always evident; it was most interesting to read the thoughts of the time about the general lot of women, and, as in the medieval story, the restrictions due to social mores and religious belief/superstition. Victoire lives many lives in her short one, and I was pleased to see return to Lucie, and reunite with the family she had longed for, for so many years, and to see wrongs overturned.
Showing the history of a country via the changes in one village over a period of six hundred years is such a great idea, and I now look forward to reading the third book in the trilogy, Wolfsangel, which is set during World War Two.
I had recently read and reviewed Liza Perrat’s fabulous book The Silent Kookaburra (check the review here) and could not pass on the opportunity to read and review another of the author’s books. I had commented on my previous review that the author is well-known for her historical fiction novels and I felt The Silent Kookaburra, although set at a much closer point in time (the 1970s in Australia) also shared the detailed setting, the atmosphere and the background events that made it worthy of that category, together with a very disturbing and beautifully written story.
Spirit of Lost Angels falls neatly into the category of historical fiction. Set in France, a few years before the French revolution, it follows the life of Victoire Charpentier, a young girl born on a farm in a small village, whose mother is a wise woman, midwife and healer to all, and who experiences death and tragedy from a very early age. She is a direct victim of the unfairness of the society of the time (a nobleman’s coach runs her father over and doesn’t even stop) and it is not surprising she wants revenge. Tragedy and disaster pile up in her life and brief moments of happiness are cut short when something else happens. Her story fits also into the category of melodrama, as she always finds herself at the centre of everything, and survives against incredible odds. Her life demonstrates that a woman’s lot is (and was even more so at the time) hard. Losing your husband, children, being raped, accused of being a witch, and being denied a voice, are everyday affairs. One thing that helps Victoire above everything is her literacy. Her reading and writing skills help her keep in touch with loved ones, provide her later with a literary career and with the means to raise consciousness as to the plight of women and the poor, and allow her to meet people and make connections. Eventually, it also helps her fulfil her dream and have a happy ending. The focus on women’s issues and the importance of education are one of the strongest points of the novel for me.
The book is beautifully written, narrated in the first person by the protagonist, who presents as very articulate. As we learn later, she becomes very proficient at writing, although early on there are moments when the beauty of her writing jarred me a bit (when she writes a letter to her daughter Ruby, she’s trying to improve her writing, but her letter is not only deeply felt but also lyrically written in spite of that), although later events and the ending facilitate a different reading of the novel. The beautiful language and the detailed and, at times, poetic descriptions help readers feel transported to the France of the period and experience the smells (and stinks), the touch, the sensations of the different settings (including the horrifying experiences at La Salpêtrière). The historical figures and events of the time (Victoire meets Thomas Jefferson, corresponds with Mary Wollstonecraft and becomes friendly with Jeanne de Valois, who plays an important role in her life) add to the texture and background of the book, making the France of the late XVIIIc even more vivid. The author explains in an endnote that her main character is entirely fictional and all her interactions with historical figures are invented too, although inspired by the real characters.
I enjoyed, in particular, the reflections of the character about the role of women in the society of the time, her terrifying but enlightening period at La Salpêtrière, and her enterprising and determination. This is a novel full of action, where events follow each other quickly and the protagonist suffers more than anyone’s fair share of events, to the point where a degree of suspension of disbelief is required. Perhaps because we follow the character through a long period of time, and Victoire is very much a conduit to reflect historical events and the lot of women at that particular historical period, I did not feel her character was as consistent or psychologically well-drawn as was the case for Tanya in The Silent Kookaburra (where although we see the protagonist at two different ages, most of the story is told from the point of view of 11 y.o. Tanya). That notwithstanding, this is a great story, full of twist and turns, that will transport you to an extremely momentous time and place, and although it is the author’s first novel, it already shows her flair for language and for creating gripping stories.
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Spirit of Lost Angels is the story of Victoire Charpentier. Born in the village of Lucie-sur-Vionne in rural 18th century France during the years leading up to the...Read more