With her internationally bestselling novels Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, and Coastliners, Joanne Harris has woven intoxicating spells that celebrate the sensuous while exposing the passion, secrets and folly beneath the surface of rustic village life. In Holy Fools, her most ambitious and accomplished novel to date, she transports us back to a time of intrigue and turmoil, of deception and masquerade.
In the year 1605, a young widow, pregnant and alone, seeks sanctuary at the small Abbey of Sainte Marie-de-la-mer on the island of Noirs Moustiers off the Brittany coast. After the birth of her daughter, she takes up the veil, and a new name, Soeur Auguste. But the peace she has found in remote isolation is shattered five years later by the events that follow the death of her kind benefactress, the Reverend Mother.
When a new abbess -- the daughter of a corrupt noble family elevated by the murder of King Henri IV -- arrives at Sainte Marie-de-la-mer, she does not arrive alone. With her is her personal confessor and spiritual guide, Père Colombin, a man Soeur Auguste knows all too well. For the newcomer is Guy LeMerle, a charlatan and seducer now masquerading as a priest, and the one man she fears more than any other.
Soeur Auguste has a secret. Once she was l'Ailée, "The Winged One," star performer of a troupe led by LeMerle, before betrayal forced her to change her identity. But now the past has found her. Before long, thanks to LeMerle, suspicion and debauchery are breeding like a plague within the convent's walls -- fueled by dark rumors of witchcraft, part of the false priest's brilliantly orchestrated scheme of revenge. To protect herself and her beloved child, l'Ailée will have to perform one last act of dazzling daring more audacious than any she has previously attempted.
Harris does a creditable job recreating the atmosphere of a very distant time and place, and infuses it with a sharp if somewhat obvious tale.
Booklist - GraceAnne DeCandido
Harris' usual command of sense description does not fail her, ever, but the breathtaking denouement is marred by LeMerle's unremitting and soulless viciousness.
Harris adds spicy characterizations, tart dark humor and seductively pungent prose, and poses some provocative questions...Readers looking for another Chocolat will be disappointed, but those who appreciate Harris's storytelling skills and enjoy fiction with a gothic twist will love this.
Library Journal - Susan Clifford Braun
A cleverly structured drama populated with timelessly colorful characters, this is sure to be a hit with the author's wide community of readers. Highly recommended.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Stephen Braithwaite
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