After reading reviews of The Silent Kookaburra by some of Rosie Amber’s book review team, I decided to read Spirit of Lost Angels by the same author. This book is the first in this author’s French historical trilogy, The Bone Angel series.
The Spirit of Lost Angels is the story of Victoire Charpentier, who lives with her parents and siblings in a rural French village in the years before The French Revolution. The family is poor but happy, until a series of devastating tragedies occurs. First, her young twin siblings die in a house fire that destroys their home, then her father is run over and killed by an aristocrat. Finally, her mentally distressed mother, a midwife and an herbalist, is killed by the villagers for being a witch. During this time, the old king dies and Louis XIV marries Marie Antoinette, and the country sinks even deeper into poverty with new taxes.
The village priest arranges for Victoire to become a servant in the home of the Marquise de Barberon in Paris. There the nobleman repeatedly rapes her, and she becomes pregnant. She manages to hide her pregnancy with the help of the Marquise’s cook, Claudine, and after she gives birth, she leaves the baby on the steps of a church. There the baby is picked up by Matron, the head of a large, state-run orphanage.
Victoire’s experiences leave her with a deep and abiding hatred of royalty and the aristocracy (no surprise). As whispers of revolution run rampant through Paris, Victoire returns to her village to marry a kind and good man, many years her senior, who is willing to overlook the fact she is no longer a virgin. For a period time she is happy. But it isn’t to last…
I have to admit, while this book is a barn burner, at this point, the unending tragedies in Victoire’s life were wearing me down. And there are more to come. Here I will stop and allow potential readers to find out what happens next, but I will tell you that Victoire returns to revolutionary Paris, and actual historical figures, one of them Thomas Jefferson, make an appearance in the book.
The author is a meticulous historian who describes village life, Paris, and the Revolution in colorful and compelling detail – the sounds, the smells, the colors – with an unsparing introduction to the mores of the time. I think that, more than anything, kept me reading. There is plenty of politics once the idea of revolution takes hold in Paris as more than just an intellectual concept, and the danger of living there at the time is very real. My one other less than positive comment concerns the amount of the book devoted to the Revolution. After the breathless pace of Victoire’s life, once she returns to Paris, her story slows to a sedate pace, which I found distracting. Too much of politics and the Revolution frustrated me.
There are many, many characters,, but with rare exception they are well drawn and realistic. To mention just three: Victoire can be frustratingly indecisive one minute and a strong and determined the next. The cook, Claudine, is a flour-sprinkled tower of strength, and the Marquise, although brief in appearance is suitably ignorant and evil.
I strongly recommend this book – it is a great summer read. For any reader with a love for historical fiction, especially about women at the time of the French Revolution, this is the book for you!
About the author (from Amazon):
Liza Perrat grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years. When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her family for over twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist. Since completing a creative writing course twelve years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in her French historical trilogy, The Bone Angel series. The second – Wolfsangel – was published in October, 2013, and the third, Blood Rose Angel, was published in November, 2015. She is a founding member of the author collective, Triskele Books and reviews books for BookMuse.
You can find her
On her website: www.lizaperrat.com
Her blog: http://lizaperrat.blogspot.com
And on Twitter: @LizaPerrat
Spirit of Lost Angels is available on Amazon: