Poison
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Poison

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  539 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Francisca de Luarac, the daughter of a poor Spanish silk grower, is a dreamer of fabulous dreams. Marie Louise de Bourbon, the niece of Louis XIV, dances in slippers of fine Spanish silk in the French Court of the Sun King and imagines her own enchanted future. Born on the same day-in an age when superstition, repression, and the Inquisition reign-the lives of these two yo...more
Paperback, 317 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by HarperCollins (first published 1995)
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Rebecca Huston
Set in seventeenth century Spain, this book follows the stories of two women, born on the same day, but in very different circumstances. Francisca is the daughter of an impoverished silk farmer, accused of witchcraft and imprisoned by the Inquisition. Maria Luisa is the queen of Carlos II, and a niece of Louis XIV, miserable in her marriage and desperate to have a child. The author scrambles up history, over-focuses on the nastier aspects of the time, such as torture, a fixation on breast milk,...more
Recynd
Well, "Poison" is not one of my favorites, not by a long shot. While Harrison is obviously devoted to her craft (you can tell by the way each sentence is so elegantly put together that the author is less storyteller than she is an artist, whose medium is words), the WAY she chose to tell her story left me cold and more than a bit confused.

Let me state up front that I'm a simple sort: I'm the most comfortable with traditional literary devices, like well-developed characters, linear(ish) storyline...more
Laura
This book relates the stories of two young women during the time of the Spanish inquisition: Francisca, a silk-grower's daughter involved in an illicit affair with a priest, and Marie Louise de Bourbon, a queen stuck in an unhappy marriage based on political motives. Their lives are loosely intertwined but for the most part they represent parallel stories. Francisca narrates the story throughout, so that it alternates between first- and third-person. However, there is an omniscience to her accou...more
Jean
This very unusual historical novel illuminates the plight of women in Spain during the Inquisition. The principal characters share the same birthday and both are doomed. Francesca, the erotic daughter of a silk farmer is accused of witchcraft. Maria, a French princess married to the revolting (and impotent) king of Spain gets the blame for being barren. The book is filled with fascinating information about silk worms, cures for infertility, ancient medical practices, 17th century superstitions,...more
Vanessa
This book was phenomenally interesting... but phenomenally depression. It takes place during the Spanish Inquisition, and tells the story of 2 different women... one the Queen of Spain, and the other a poor farm girl who is accused of witchcraft (because she had an affair with a Catholic priest).

Before you read this book, I recommend that you look up some information about "Mad King Carlos II" of Spain. It will provide you with some valuable information about the Spanish royal family, and why t...more
Linda Tuplin
Beautifully written, about love during the time of the Spanish Inquisiton, and the danger in being a woman during a time when women and love were suspect. Two parallel lives, one a commoner in love with a priest, the other a French princess married to the mad King Carlos II of Spain, one destroyed because of love, the other destroyed for lack of it. The two main characters are so well developed you really feel you are conversing with them as they reminise about their lives as they near its end....more
linda
My favorite of Kathyrn Harrison's novels, that darts between two women in vastly different social spheres and suffer this sort of debilitating and bleak lack of choice that I only really truly understood toward the very end. I found this paralyzingly creepy, but maybe that was only me. And maybe it's just Kathryn Harrison -- whose work I usually find paralyzingly creepy on some degree.
Megan-Elise
Though there is no fault with Harrison's prose, which is gorgeously delivered, I was not a fan of the narrative style. I found it difficult to follow, and felt that the majority of the novel was exposition, which was quite boring. Though there are some real gut wrenching moments, I had to push myself to finish the book and be done with it.
Kathy
I started out with hope for an interesting historical novel, but winds deeper and deeper into some kind of madness....not sure if its the characters' or the author's. Made me start to feel as sick as the characters and gave up 3/4 the way through and I hardly ever give up on a book that's taken me that far.
Laura
beautifully written. Kathryn Harrison's prose shines, however the book reminds me of a Hieronymus Bosch painting of Hell. That's why it only gets 3 stars from me. Also, the history is incorrect, altho one does get a nasty taste of what late 1600 Spain was like.

I also have to add a line that really made me laugh--it has to do with the Dr.'s training and the proliferation of poisoning in the royal houses of Europe: If only the University of Leyden had offered a curriculum in poisonings. But that w...more
Kathleen
Very disjointed writing style which is why it gets I star. Did make me do research into Queen Maria Louisa and Carlos II. Disturbing period of history
Stacie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joanne
The author, while taking creative license with historical facts, does so brilliantly. Those who are already familiar with French and Spanish royalty in the 1660's will still find a tale plaited with mysteries.

As a storyteller, she excels.

As a poetic author, she shines. When every sentence lilts, it is easy to go so overboard that the reader is knocked unconscious by the heady perfume of poetry and lose the story under the petals- Kathryn Harrison does not fall prey to that pitfall, and pulls i...more
Kate
I won't argue that the writing is gorgeous, but it's not enough to counteract the gloom and despair of the story itself.

Right from the start you learn that both main characters are doomed. The author then proceeds to fill the remaining 300 pages with a series of heart-wrenching, soul-sucking events that never let up.

I had to dig deep to keep picking this book back up. More than once I considered giving up on it entirely, but I had to find out if the author left any kind of reward or redemption...more
Gina
I actually found this book in a box on the street. I love historical novels and this one did not disappoint. But it is not for the faint of heart. I follows the lives of two women during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. One is a french princess that is matched to the king of Spain who is basically an invalid. A queen's job is basically to produce an heir. Even if it is not the queen's fault, she is always blamed if there is none. This offers a realistic look into the unglamorous life of the...more
Susan Hansford
Dec 02, 2007 Susan Hansford rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys historical novels
The reader is plunged into 17th century Spain with Kathryn Harrison's exquisite detail... the book is filled with fascinating historical details: silk worms and exotic poisons, court life and the dungeons of the Inquisition, wet-nurses and dwarfs, religion and politics.
There's love in this book, and lots of sadness. There are lessons to learn and metaphors for life. People to care about. Sin, deception, betrayal. And, when the book is over, there is the feeling of having lived for a short while...more
Carole Roman
Captivating read about the life of a French Princess wedded to the Spanish heir to the throne in the 17th century. Beautifully written, Harrison recreates the glittering Hapsburg Spanish court, filled with treachery, adultery and murder. Not for readers expecting a light historical read, its the tragedy of two girls, one a princess the other a peasant, and traces the impotency of finding happiness in their own lives. Faced with torture, with no one to trust, its a depressing spiral downward of t...more
Zoe Jean
Loosely based on King Carlos II who ruled Spain from 1665 to 1700, and his French wife, Princess Marie Louise, along with the production of silk, from worms to cloth, and the Spanish Inquisition.
What struck me about this book was the restrained and sometimes unrestrained passion for life, death, love and lust. Ms.Harrisons prose is exquisite, through the entire book. Some may find her writing style of going back and forth in time a bit disconcerting, but once you have the rhythm of the book, it...more
Judy King
The time of the inquisition seems to be one of history's most complicated; the history of Spain for about 300 years at the same general time is extremely complicated. While much of this book was very enjoyable, other sections were unnecessarily complicated. Intellectually I understand why she named the book Poison -- the silk work angle was mildly interesting but it seemed to add extra unnecessary length and detail to an already long and detailed book. I was anxious to read this; enjoyed parts a...more
Jessa
The author is incredibly poetic and the book is a little disturbing.
Lynn
Interesting books, this was about a period I'd not read before and I really nejoyed the juxtaposition of the stories of the two main characters.
This is a fascinating tale that vividly describes the horrors of the Inquisition with all of its nightmarish accusations and tortures. Throughout the book there are threads of love, passion, betrayal and dreams, all written so eloquently that for me this book was impossible to put down.
Karen
1680's Spain during the Inquisition. Based on fact, the book tells the story of the lives of a poor silk worm farmer's daughter and the neice of King Louis XIV of France (who is married off to King Carlos II of Spain) who are born on the same day. The book goes back and forth with the drama of the two lives. Some interesting details of the Inquisition's practices but a rather sad story of just how miserable life was then.
Sorcha
Intertwined story of the daughter of a silk-grower (who has an affair with a priest and is therefore arrested by the Inquisition), and the queen of Spain, who fails to produce offspring and therefore is poisoned.[return][return]Interesting, it shows the absurdities of the 16th Century court, the belief systems of a Catholic country and the pressures on some to produce heirs and the pressures on others not to...
Beth
Heartwrenching! Excruciating! Exquisite!
Jenna
This book gives some interesting and painful views of women during the inquisition. It seems that being a royal or a commoner is difficult if you are a woman. I can see how The slanted views of the inquisition, due to misinformation, have relevance in today's society. Since I like antique jewelry, the ring was interesting to me. It was a decent mix of history with a love story.
Steve
Beautifully written "historical" novel, set in 18th century Spain, and comparing the lives of two women, one a peasant girl, the other the Queen. Accused of witchcraft, the peasant girl recalls her past, and muses over the fate of the Queen, sent by Louis from France to marry the impotent Spanish King Carlos. Mysterious, tantalising and evocative, this is definitely worth reading.
Doralyn
This was a well-written book about the scary effects of the church's power in Spain a few centuries ago. The summary on the back of the book was wrong as it stated that the queen's future was dreamt of by Francisca, when that didn't happen at all. I don't know why it even said that. Maybe whoever did the write-up didn't actually read the book.
Judy
I read this book many years ago and it's still among my favorites--in fact I read it more than once. It immersed me in the world of the Spanish court and in the star-crossed parallel story of a common girl and her forbidden love affair with a priest. The Inquisition overshadowed everything. Harrison's writing made it all real for me.
Jayne
The historical setting is very interesting - especially the silk production piece. The parallel lives of two women - who should lead very different lives because of their station - but do not because they are women - is haunting in this book. As always - Harrison is focused on the perversity of sexual relationships.
Selena
An interesting story about a time period I know little if anything about. I wish there would have been more about the medical training. It reminded me a bit of The Birth of Venus.
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Kathryn Harrison is the author of the novels Envy, The Seal Wife, The Binding Chair, Poison, Exposure, and Thicker Than Water.
She has also written memoirs, The Kiss and The Mother Knot, a travel memoir, The Road To Santiago, a biography, Saint Therese Of Lisieux, and a collection of personal essays, Seeking Rapture.
Ms. Harrison is a frequent reviewer for The New York Times Book Review; her essay...more
More about Kathryn Harrison...
The Kiss Enchantments The Binding Chair or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society Exposure While They Slept: An Inquiry Into the Murder of a Family

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