Friday, March 15, 2013

REVIEW: The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Lace is a thing like hope.
It is beauty; it is grace.
It was never meant to destroy so many lives.

The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France, pulling soldier and courtier into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don't have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything-or anyone.For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who know demands an impossible length of it. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits. 

My Thoughts: When I picked up The Ruins of Lace it was because I was in desperate need of a break from historical fiction novels focused on royals.  This novel which is the smuggling of the very prized Flemish lace in 17th century France, was just the ticket.  The story is told from multiple viewpoints and touches on lace in some way.  Katharina is a young woman dwelling in a convent charged with the task of making the exquisite lace-something she loves.  Her sister Heilwich works as a caretaker for a local priest and wants nothing more than to get her sister out of the convent.  While Katharina is total oblivious to the fate that awaits girls who can no longer make lace, her sister is fully aware and would do anything to spare her that fate.  Another thread of story involves Lisette, a beautiful girl who ruins a  piece of lace-a mistake her family spends years paying for.  Alexandre is the handsome young man who loves her but doesn't have the means to take care of her.  And then there is the
most unusual point of view of all-that of a dog used to smuggle lace across the border.

There was so much that I liked about this book, including the fascinating account of the lace smuggling business and the lengths people would go to obtain it.  This was a topic I knew next to nothing about so it definitely drew my interest.  I was completely sucked in by certain character's parts of the story-most notably the young girl Katharina and despite the skepticism held about hearing the dog's point of view, his story actually ended up growing on me quite a bit too as I read along.  I love multiple viewpoint books when done well and here you get a little bit of everything: the girl who makes the lace, the dog who smuggles it in, the Soldier whose job it is to check for it on the border, the young girl whose like was so adversely impacted by lace, the evil Count who is the cause of her woes, and the bold  young man who will do anything to make her happy.  For some reason, I did not connect at all with the story of the Soldier Denis and thought the book would have been better without him in it.  Also while I enjoyed the story of the lace and the adventure in finding the lace that will make everything come right, I did find the ending to be a bit melodramatic.  Still, I loved reading something in the historical fiction realm that was so different and I did enjoy this book quite a bit.  It won't be for everyone, especially those who won't be able to get past the dog-as-narrator thing but if you're bored with the royals and looking for something unique I suggest you give this one a try.

 I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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