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Holy Fools

A Novel

by Joanne Harris

Holy Fools by Joanne Harris
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2004, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2005, 384 pages

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Stephen Braithwaite


The Book "Holy Fools" by Joanne Harris, is set in in France in the 1600
and something, in Gothic times of plague and the burning of witches.
The main character, Juliette, is an ever resourceful gypsy woman who
grew up in show business. Traveling circuses such as hers were loved
but blamed for plague and theft. Together with the second main
character "Le Merle", they narrowly escape being burnt at the stake by
means of cunning and deceit. La Merle uses trickery and theatrical
manipulation to fleece peasants and the church alike.

After a disaster, Juliette is pregnant and retires to an abbey under a
fake identity living peacefully for years until the death of the
abbess. The replacement is a 13 year old girl appointed as abbess by
the bishop, and she is aided by a priest. But the good father is no
priest, he is Le Merle, with plans for a revenge.

Le Merle uses theater and trickery to cause fear, mistrust and
wickedness amongst the nuns the abbey. He is perceived as the anchor,
the rock - in the fight against illness, unholy occurrences and Satan's
minions. Juliette finds herself accused of witchcraft, is blackmailed
with her child and is almost powerless as she attempts to expose La
Merle. The hate and fear brought to life by La Merle becomes self
perpetuating and takes on a life of its own.

Holy Fools could not have been about the war on terror, because it was
released in 2000, before Sept 11th 2001. But had it been released
today, the parallels would be impossible to ignore. When I read it, it
seemed like a brilliant commentary on the self perpetuating War on
Terror.

I found myself totally enraptured by this book, and so I shall give it a
five star rating.
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