Hmmm. That’s my honest reaction to this historical novel. An excellent recommendation from Danielle’s blog, but unfortunately not to my taste, this historical-romantic-philosophical-heist novel leaves something to be desired.
The plot is based a decade or more after the French revolution and the age of “Terror”, just after Napolean’s defeat at Waterloo. The story follows a young medical student, Daniel Connor, into the bedlam of Paris.
Paris, then, is the beating heart of Europe – the scientific, cultural and political center. As the city is coming to terms with the new regime, students from all over Europe are travelling to Paris to
make their own careers. And Daniel is just one of them– an aspiring researcher; Daniel comes to Paris to work with the famed Dr. Cuvier, with important letters of recommendation and rare fossils as an offering. The story begins with Daniel’s encounter with this dark haired beauty who mysteriously befriends Daniel on his night coach ride to Paris. When the morning comes, she is gone and so are the letters and the fossils. Daniel is devastated and in his interview with the Police Commissioner Jargot , he learns that he encountered Lucienne Bernard – a famous Parisian thief and one of Paris’s most wanted.
I was interested so far…the novel had a lot of promise – mysterious strangers in the night, the bustle of Paris, questions of evolution and background political drama.
Now Daniel bumps into Lucienne again and there is some serious chemistry there. However, intead of reporting to the police, as he had promised, he just comforts her and asks her to return his stuff. Eventually, he predictably falls in love with her and enters her world of Paris.
And this is the part where I begin to lose interest. So somewhere down the line, Lucienne has to do one last job before she can leave this life forever and create a new identify – and then some Ocean’s 11 type of robbery is planned and ….whatever.
It’s really frustrating to give a few hours to some book and then it goes nowhere. Rebecca Scott is a gifted writer – there is no doubt about the beauty of her writing style. I was however, not so impressed by the story teller in her. I could not pin-point the central theme of the novel – it was about everything, yet nothing.
There is another thing that I am noticing more about contemporary literature – all authors, I believe have in the back of the mind a potential movie deal. Hence, their characters become larger than life glamorous beings, there are some really smart dialog exchanges where every character is witty, some fast paced action scenes, great visual affects and ambiguous endings. I wish when they are writing a novel they would not treat it at as a screenplay
But nevertheless, the book wasn’t a total waste of my time, and there was some breathtaking writing. Some of my favorite lines below:
“ People talk about falling among thieves. I fell among thieves in the city of Paris in 1815, except that it didn’t feel like a falling at all – it felt like flight”
“And when the coral spawn, all the other sea organisms follow. It’s like a trigger. The fisherman say it’s the moon that makes them spawn, she had said, and I said: How can they see the moon? They have on eyes. Perhaps they have other ways of seeing and knowing, she had. Perhaps we all do. There’s a grandeur in that.”