Joanne Harris is the author of seven previous novels--Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Sleep, Pale Sister, and Gentlemen & Players; a short story collection, Jigs & Reels; and two cookbook/memoirs, My French Kitchen and The French Market. Half French and half British, she lives in England.
It is 1610, and from her cell in the Abbey of Sainte Marie-de-la-Mer Soeur Auguste reminisces about her life with the players, troupes of masked and powdered young entertainers roaming the French countryside. She has sought refuge with her daughter among a community of nuns who share a life of seclusion and prayer. The solace of life in the abbey is suddenly shattered with the death of their elderly abbess and the arrival of a young replacement who aspires to greatness. Gone is their life of relaxed piety and comfort, replaced by the rigors of fasting, masses, and hard work. Rebellion is near when in walks Guy LeMerle, a flamboyant former player masquerading as priest. In a brief few months, he transforms the abbey into a play within itself, full of tragedy, revenge, suspicion, lust, and chaos. Soeur Auguste must restore the abbey to peace-by returning to her roots as a player. Harris (Chocolat; Five Quarters of the Orange) treats readers to a feast for the senses, an aromatic m?lange of 17th-century France and its roiling Catholicism. 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. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/03.]-Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"Love not often, but forever" is an adage with dangerous implications for Juliette, a gypsy acrobat in 17th-century France who strives to balance her wild yearnings with her hard-won wisdom in this passionate novel from the author of Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange. Harris gave hints in the latter novel of a darker sensibility, and she fully indulges that inclination here, broodingly exploring the mechanics of mass hysteria and the clash between the desires of the flesh and spiritual cravings. Juliette's involving narration alternates with the amoral reflections of her rogue lover, Guy LeMerle, the Blackbird ("He lived on perpetual credit and never went to church"). LeMerle is the leader of Juliette's troupe, which is disbanded after a clash with a town's authorities; at the same time, LeMerle abandons the pregnant Juliette, who is persecuted as a witch. Five years later, Juliette, now called Soeur Auguste, and her daughter, Fleur, have found refuge at the Abbey of Sainte-Marie-de-la-mer on the Brittany coast. Then LeMerle arrives at the abbey disguised as Father Confessor to the newly appointed abbess, Isabelle, a preternaturally severe girl of 12 whose uncle happens to be LeMerle's nemesis, the bishop of ?vreux. Isabelle causes Fleur to be removed from the abbey, and while Juliette struggles to get her back, LeMerle manipulates the nuns into believing Satan has their convent in thrall, in a complicated plot to revenge himself on the bishop. This fictional cassoulet suggests Aldous Huxley's nonfiction work The Devils of Loudun, with "demonically" possessed nuns caught in a web of sexual repression and political and religious oppression during an era of upheaval in France. Harris adds spicy characterizations, tart dark humor and seductively pungent prose, and poses some provocative questions: can 65 nuns be so easily misled? why does Juliette find herself drawn to such a selfish man? The title supplies an answer with almost unholy glee. (Feb. 3) Forecast: 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. Eight-city author tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"Passionate ... Spicy characterizations, tart dark humor and
seductively pungent prose."--Publishers Weekly
"Compelling . . . a layered, mesmerizing gothic thriller."--Orlando Sentinel
"Holy Fools is rich in style and nuance . . . an engaging, compelling read."--Denver Post
"Nimble plot twists and voluptuous language . . . daring."--Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Rapturous ...A dark, seductive exploration of passion and repression that plumbs the depths of the human psyche."--BookPage