Although I read a lot of historical fiction, I had not come across Judith Merkle Riley until I picked up this rather tattered copy of her book at a second hand book sale.
It has been a pleasant surprise.
The story is set in the reign of Louis XIV, in Paris and Versailles. It is filled with wonderful characters from the underground movement of witches and fortune tellers.
We follow the fortunes of Genevieve Pasquier, a young fortune teller who takes on the personage of a 150yr old woman, Madame de Morville, and carries it off with amazing conviction amongst titled people much older than herself.
Whilst witches and fortune tellers are legal at this time in French history, poisoners, and abortionists are not. Many of Genevieve's colleages are running illegal businesses behind the scenes and the law is closing in.
Atmospheric and well written, my main problem with the book was the basic surmise that a teenager could convince so many people that she is 150 years old. Although supposedly kept youthful by an alchemical potion, surely her naievety would give her away?
Ignoring that however, I would still recommend it and will now be on the lookout for further novels by this author.
In 17th century Paris, Genevieve Pasquier is forced to leave home after the death of her father. She is taken in by La Voisin, the most powerful witch in town, and assumes the identity of Markise de Morville, an old noblewoman who quickly becomes the most fashionable fortuneteller at the court of the Sun King. As she struggles to maintain her sanity and catch the man of her dreams, the criminal network of which La Voisin is the undisputed leader slowly begins to collapse and Genevieve finds herself in greater danger than she had ever imagined.... This is one of the best books I have ever read and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in historical fiction.
I first checked this book out from the library and thought it looked interesting. I read it, and I love it then and I still love it now. Since, I've bought my own copy and I've probably read it twenty times. THE ORACLE GLASS is intelligent, entertaining, and the main character is admirable and still the reader can identify with her; it shows Genevieve maturing and finding herself and her true love, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. My only complaint is that the book ended too soon. If you like THE ORACLE GLASS, look for THE SERPENT GARDEN (good but not as good, in my opinion.)
Well researched, cleverly written, and with a complex lead character. This does not have the charm of some of her other work, but it is a good read, and a well balanced one, not too dark and heavy, but not a fluffy feelgood book either. Lovely stuff!
Aside from the possibly incorrect portrayal of witchcraft (such as the ridiculous idea of the Black Mass), the remainder of THE ORACLE GLASS is excellent. Through the eyes of a young woman fortune-teller, the reader sees the difficulties of life for women of 17th century Paris - that men forced them to get abortions from quacks so they ended up dead and their bodies were thrown in the alley, that any unmarried woman who ran a business or earned any money could have everything seized by a male relative and she could be locked up in a convent, and the double-standard of married men having as many mistresses as they want but any woman was considered a whore and could be arrested for prostitution. From Genevieve's intelligent logic-and-reason point of view, the overly-plumed, -wigged, and -laced aristocracy and the "witches" appear very comical. I laughed aloud many times.
This was one of the best books i have ever read . The heroine is unique, but so very believable- i identified with her from the first. It is not always that heroines in historicals are portrayed as less than perfect. She starts out as being described as a grotesque little monkey to a straight backed young women with the nobility at her knees. A little improbable, maybe, in real-life terms., but the message is clear- A strong will and determination will help you rise when the odds are stacked against you. The pace of the book nevar slackens, and it is intense, gripping, and the constant physical pain the heroine is under gives the book the extra vicious edge, that tells your brain-this is real, and it hurts ! A book that speaks more clearly to me than most, as one of the many Imperfect who walk this planet, in the shadow of the rest .
I adore books with witchcraft in them, so I borowed this book from the library thinking it had alot of witch craft in it. It really didn't have all that much. I am glad I read it because it has a wonderfull theme to it."I set out on a journey look for what I am only to find out that it was allways right at home." p.s. Judith's "A Vison of Light" is much better.
Read this years ago when I got it out from the library. Amazing book. The background is fascinating and well-researched and the main character is totally believable. Wish she'd written loads more books!