Julie's Reviews > Through a Glass Darkly

Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen
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's review
Nov 08, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, british-isles-theme-setting, read-2011
Read from January 23 to 30, 2011 — I own a copy

Heaps of raucous, costume drama fun. Koen brings to sparkling life early 18th century London and Paris- the debauchery, the plotting, the wasted lives of the wealthy and the pitiful existence of the poor. Her characters, with their powdered wigs, their rouged cheeks, silk breeches and low-cut gowns, simper and scheme their way through royal courts, whorehouses, and country estates looking for tactical advantage in marriage, love affairs, and friendship, with little thought to lasting love and compassion.

But not all are so hard-of-heart or jaded by scandal. The author crafts a story of many true loves, complicated by passion, duty, and social taboo (yes, there are a few taboos, despite the not-so-private orgies of the French court which the book details, flirting briefly with soft porn...). There is an overabundance of weeping and wailing, particularly from the heroine who is supposed to be plucky and precocious. There were numerous occasions I wanted to smack Barbara silly. I think it was a very poor choice on Koen's part, as Barbara's tantrums were in complete contradiction of the character the author had taken such pains to create. Without reaching into spoiler territory, I found Barbara's about-face implausible. But plausibility would have created a vacuum of plot twists. And where's the fun in that?

Sumptuously written, with vivid detail, a host of engaging characters, titillating sex, fair amount of blood and guts- all the fixings of a satisfying read. It's an escape, a lark, but well-researched. And startlingly relevant. The collapse of the British financial system in the 1720's mirrors the financial House of Cards that collapsed in the global financial crisis of 2008. And our obsession with the cult of celebrity shows that we carry on the basest cultural traditions of societies past: those with too much continue to make fools of themselves, to the rabid delight of the world that watches their every move.

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Reading Progress

01/25/2011 page 175
23.0% "Gorgeous, gushing, guilty pleasure. Perfect way to plow through the final dreary days of January..."
01/26/2011 page 253
33.0% "I don't get this: I have this very edition- ISBN match, paperbook, etc. Yet my copy has 674 pages, not 768. What gives, GR?" 1 comment
01/27/2011 page 388
58.0% "This is a bizarre hybrid of Laura Ingalls and Jackie Collins. With all the characters in drag. And a soundtrack courtesy of Meatloaf. Why am I having so much fun?"

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin I loved this book! I once read it in high school and recently gave it another re-read, in hopes of reading the sequel soon after that. And, for the life of me, I can't remember if I was able to do that. Hmph.

Julie Erin- it's so great to know this! I'd never even heard of this book, but it called to me from the shelf of our favorite used bstore. It just seemed like the perfect escape on a dreary winter's day.

message 3: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin I hope you enjoy it! I've always loved insanely long historical novels. I wish I could get into the Mists of Avalon, though. I'm starting to think that's a book that should wait until I don't have school to draw my attention away.

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