Jen Rothmeyer's Reviews > Sepulchre

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse
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Jul 15, 2011

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Sepulchre by Kate Mosse was handed to me by my brother last week when I was lamenting not having enough books to read. Immediately I was drawn in by the cover. Red and gold with swirls and points, it looks like an old rust-covered gold-leafed plaque. There is a symbol on the front, mysterious to me, and on the inside covers are tarot cards. That's it. I'm in.

It took me a little while to work my way through Sepulchre as it is approximately 592 pages long. This wasn't due to any lagging in the story as I remained interested throughout. We are first introduced to Léonie, a young French girl, in March of 1891. Léonie is absolutely dedicated to her brother, Anatole, and has very fond exasperation for her mother, Marguerite. Léonie and Anatole go for a visit to the countryside at their now-deceased uncle's estate and stay with their aunt-by-marriage. At first, Léonie was dismayed to hear of this visit but she rapidly grows attached to the mysterious and forbidding Domaine de la Cade and to her aunt Isolde. Léonie is drawn to the site of an old sepulchre and the legends and stories that surround it. Simultaneously, we learn about an adult named Meredith who is on a trip researching Claude Debussy and her own heritage in the year 2007. Adopted by a distant relative, Meredith does not know anything about her mother's family except that she has a piece of music titled Sepulchre 1891 and a photo of a soldier in Rennes-les-Bains (which is the town near Domaine de la Cade). She goes for a stay at Domaine de la Cade and starts to unwrap the mystery surrounding the estate as she simultaneously discovers who she is and where she comes from.

There were several things that I enjoyed about this book. The first is the language. Throughout the book, the surroundings are described in English, yet the people speak in foreign languages. When appropriate, they speak English, but there are plenty of sentences and phrases sprinkled about that are unflinchingly not English. Ms. Mosse ensures that the reader understands via context and sometimes rephrasing in English afterwards. I thoroughly enjoyed this added element of staging that draws one into the foreign (to me) country of this story. The second thing that really hit me was how often Meredith would be exploring some locale in order to find out more about Mr. Debussy or her past and the buildings and locations would be destroyed, ruined, built over, or otherwise gone. Ms. Mosse discussed how everything was modern now and not at all as it was. This is so brilliant! I've been to a few countries and many times everything IS new and built over. What's left is in ruins and not even recognizable. Contrary to a lot of fiction, things don't stay the way they are! This is so often overlooked when people are "researching" their past. Things change. One last thing: "She copied it all down: first rule of research - and the second and third - write everything down. You never knew until later what might turn out to be relevant" (pg. 164). I really liked Meredith. She reminded me of me. (I certainly don't photograph and document and write down everything. Nope. Not me!)

At times, Sepulchre seemed a little long-winded, but I simultaneously enjoyed the long descriptions as they drew me into the story. I enjoyed flip-flopping through the time lines and having those sunburst moments of "OH! That's how that connects!" Ms. Mosse is a master of leaving little bread crumbs to be picked up later in the story and if you are paying attention, you'll get plenty of those sunburst moments. Also sprinkled throughout are little pieces of history that make me itch to look up information and research (and of course write it down). All in all, I enjoyed this story and will look into more of Ms. Mosse's books.
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