I enjoy Harris's writing. Her worlds have so much texture and intricacy. Though Juliette is the main narrator, the star of the story is the Blackbird....moreI enjoy Harris's writing. Her worlds have so much texture and intricacy. Though Juliette is the main narrator, the star of the story is the Blackbird. I have a weakness for the roughish, twisted puppet-master, despite his psychopathic tendencies. He's the one who dares, the one who exhibits intelligence and hunger. I can see how readers would hate the ending, but it was the only appropriate conclusion. The book is called Holy Fools, after all.
My inner feminist balks at many of the plot points, especially how weak, malicious and malleable many of the women are.
All the same, a very entertaining read and, while I wouldn't call it a thriller, there was enough suspense in the story to keep me racing ahead.
I was so on board with this book. It was beautifully written, it was contemplative and it was sad. I loved the main thread of the story, the idea of t...moreI was so on board with this book. It was beautifully written, it was contemplative and it was sad. I loved the main thread of the story, the idea of tasting people's emotions and how that can bring torment. But, as the narrator aged, I started to lose my connection to the story. And, oddly enough, as she connected with her family and her "gift" I started to lose interest in the events, because the sense of magic and specificity wandered off somewhere. I really thought this was going to be a five star book. I thought there was no way it wasn't going to earn five stars and I was really excited about it. Then, the last quarter of the book happened and it just left me cold. Some of the plot points needed to happen, others seemed superfluous and a little annoying. The writing is strongest when it sings with the immediacy and confusion of childhood as opposed to the detachment and resignation of becoming an adult. But, it's still beautifully written and highly recommended to those who favor delicate, forlorn, magical little stories.(less)
An adventure tale filled with bizarre and morbid happenings. The quote comparing Tinti to a twenty-first century Robert Louis Stevenson is appropriate...moreAn adventure tale filled with bizarre and morbid happenings. The quote comparing Tinti to a twenty-first century Robert Louis Stevenson is appropriate. Here you'll have enough thrills and oddities to keep you entertained. The world-building is excellent and the plot exciting enough to keep me turning the pages. Unfortunately, the characters tend to be devices and sideshow stereotypes more than they are original or moving. There's nothing that specifically relates to my life or makes me feel that spark of recognition or wisdom I hope to get from the best of books. I like the storytelling theme, but the stories felt divorced from the rest of the content- something to skim over. That's the one part that really might have resonated strongly, elevating the book.
But, you won't be bored by this one. It's barrels of fun with a few chills thrown in.(less)
What this book does really well is illustrate the dependence women had on men during the height of the Paris Opera. Our heroine's only options are as...moreWhat this book does really well is illustrate the dependence women had on men during the height of the Paris Opera. Our heroine's only options are as follows: 1) Find someone to marry, 2) Find someone who will set her up as a lorette (high-class prostitute), or 3) Sell her body every night after the show. Now, it bothers me a little bit that the author indicated that the Paris Opera was pimping out their ballerinas to the patrons on a nightly basis. There was a bit of pimping that went on, but there wasn't some unspoken contract that every ballerina had to give it up to every interested party on a nightly basis as soon as she turned twenty-five. That's a bit of an exaggeration (something the author admits in her follow-up notes).
There's enough drama that I didn't think the book needed that bit of fiction. The life of a ballerina in the Paris Opera was tremendously strange and demanding without also being forced into daily prostitution by their dancing masters. I get it added a sort of countdown/ticking bomb element to the story, but in truth, there is a real life countdown in the disintegration of the physical body as a dancer ages. What is an uneducated, "immoral" woman going to do with her life once she can no longer perform?
The women were treated as commodities - something that the book did a great job of capturing. It also did a good job of illustrating the sexual nature of performance and high art at that time. Anyone interested in some light reading centered around the art world and the Paris Opera would probably find this an entertaining read. The prose is light and immersive, though it has a tendency to skim over less sensational/romantic plot elements (like the war and temporary ruin of Paris!). It says a lot that I didn't hate the character, since she was in the unenviable position of deciding which man to hitch her star to. Normally I hate that kind of thing, but she was portrayed more as a modern girl trying to live in a dangerous world, than as a scheming gold-digger. The battle for her virginity got a little silly.
Other stuff I liked: -The other ballerinas. The ins and outs of their relationships and competitiveness with each other. -How the MC got rid of an unwanted lover. Showed intelligence and wit.
Stuff that bothered me: -The author is clearly not a dancer. She did her research, but a few of her technical mistakes were frustrating. Described transitions between dance steps were illogical and a dancer would not perform a ballon. A ballon is a quality of movement, not an actual dance step. A ballonne, on the other hand, might work. Not to get nitpicky... but...
Anyhoo, there you go. It isn't high art, but it's kinda fun. I recommend doing some follow-up research if you find the topic interesting, because it was a fascinating time in dance history.(less)