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The Ruins of Lace

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  1,393 ratings  ·  294 reviews
Lace is a thing like hope.
It is beauty; it is grace.
It was never meant to destroy so many lives.

The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France,
pulling soldier and courtier alike into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy
Paperback, 326 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published October 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.34  · 
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Jan 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Hmmm...the idea and history behind this novel was fantastic. Before reading this book I knew nothing about lace or its place in seventeenth century France. The author’s research was evidently excellent and the variety of characters added to the historical atmosphere. That being said, I found the overall story shallow, choppy, and forced. There were seven characters guiding the reader through the novel; I desperately wanted to like any of the human ones (spoiler: one of the characters is a dog an ...more
Judy & Marianne from Long and Short Reviews
Originally posted at: http://www.longandshortreviews.blogsp...

You know the saying, too many books, too little time? It sums up my dilemma perfectly. Sometimes it’s a choice between fiction and the many books on historical events I want to read by year’s end. Lucky for me I got the best of both worlds in The Ruins of Lace.

It’s a fascinating read and shows how much work and effort the author took in researching the topic of lace and its impact on culture and society in 16th century France. What ma
Susan Meissner
Dec 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was news to me, that there was a time in French history when lace was contraband. To possess it was a criminal act and to smuggle it into the country was treasonous. Whenever someone with means wants something they can’t readily have, there is always someone who will get it for them for a price, regardless of the risk or who they have to abuse and use to get it.

Told in multiple view points, including that of a dog who is a smuggler’s runner, it is obvious the story is really about people –
Jul 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
The story is told from the viewpoint of 7 characters in alternating chapters. It's just too many voices and the chapters overlap in odd ways at times. I've read a lot of books from multiple POV and even for the best writers maintaing 3-4 characters is difficult, maintaining 7 and keeping your reader interested ESPECIALLY in a book under 320 pages is impossible. This unfortunate choice flawed the book. At most 3 of the characters were needed to tell the story and there are 2 that are completely i ...more
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Katharina has spent her whole life making lace. It is the only thing she knows. Without it, she will be lost. This is why; Katharina can not let the nuns know that she is almost blind. Because if the nuns where to learns Katharina’s secret then Katharina would be thrown out on the streets.

Lisette is in love. Although, Lisette is about to learn the true cost of love. The Count is obsessed with lace. He wants it and will do anything in his powers to get it.

I have had a history with historical an
Let me first say that I was really looking forward to this book. The whole historical aspect of smuggling lace was such a fascinating subject. And I had high hopes as I began because I love first person point of view and really enjoyed reading Katharina’s voice. What I didn’t realize is that there are seven different voices in this book changing with each chapter. It even includes the point of view told by a dog. The constant switching of characters was a bit confusing - I found myself always ha ...more
It has always seemed ironic to me that innocent, beautiful things like lace or tulips become so sought after that they are literally fought over by entire countries. So when I saw The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony, I knew I had to read it. Whether you’re a history buff or not, I suspect this novel will be a welcome change of pace from the novels that are usually featured this time of year. It’s a high-stakes adventure filled with danger, romance, and the ever-present misuse of power. Read the re ...more
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look into a part of history we don’t usually see represented in fiction, this book will captivate any lover of historical fiction.
The most exciting part of this book is the careful melding of multiple storylines. This is never an easy thing for an author to achieve and even less so when dealing with a period in time so far removed from our own. The author is very clever in handling the many plot lines, making them straight-forward enough so that they don’t knot with one another. I
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great story, especially if you want to learn about the ban on lace in the 1600's and the resulting black market. I enjoyed that the author told the story from the point of view of the various characters, with a short chapter from each point of view. She does a great job of painting her heroes and villains so the reader is on board cheering or sneering. I was disappointed in the ending. I felt it was too abrupt - almost as if the author wanted to finish and just wrapped it up to move on. It also ...more
Rick F.
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Lace is a thing like hope.
It is beauty; it is grace.
It was never meant to destroy so many lives .

The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France,
pulling soldier and courtier alike into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything––or anyone."

I just finished this most superb of novels and I am simply amazed at how truly affecting it is.
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is another of Casey's suggestions. I really liked this book. It was full of complicated moral dilemmas. Decisions had huge consequences that affected everyone in the wake. Each of the 7 characters had a sympathetic back story, even the antagonist. Favorite quotes come from a bit player, Denis, a failed baker's son turned failed soldier, who chooses to return to his home village after finally deciding to exchange his gun for a loaf of bread.

"Now I understood everything. The lieutenant had th
Anne Hamilton
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Anne by: Iola
A strange and compelling read. Each chapter is from a different point of view - including that of a dog! The thread (pun intended) that unites all the disparate stories in a unified whole is 'lace'. In fact, 'lace' almost seems to be a character in this book, as the repeating cycle of perspectives twist and turn so that - at last - the pattern is apparent.

Is there any central character? Not really. Is there a hero? Yes. A villain? Yes. A romance? In parts. A thriller? In parts. A crime novel? In
My Book Addiction and More MBA
Oct 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
THE RUINS OF LACE by Iris Anthony is a complex and intriguing historical fiction set in 17th century France and Flanders. It is a complicated story of freedom,the fascination of lace,lace makers, the rise and fall of an empire,homosexuality in the 16-17th century in France, and cost to lace makers. “The Ruins of Lace” is a story written with vivid descriptions,detailing the intricate making of lace,the cost to the lace makers,and the lost of so much. It interweaves between the cast o
Cynthia Mcarthur
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
When I first began this book, I thought to be reading a simple, possibly frilly book about the back-alley lace trade in late 1600's France and Flanders. Imagine my surprise when the story is told from the alternating, first-person points of view of seven different players, one of whom is so improbable, I just did not know how it could possibly flow.
But flow it did! From the almost blind, convent-bound lace-maker who will soon be turned out, to an evil gender-confused Count who believes contraban
Aug 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Public library copy. Iris Anthony is a pen name. This author also writes under the name Siri Mitchell. I have read Mitchell's book Flirtation Walk.

I chose The Ruins of Lace from the library shelf because it looked interesting. I find the subject of interest, and I like the multiple points of view, but I do not like the language used to tell the story. This is one book I'm tempted not to finish, but curiosity has me continuing. (Halfway through.)

Because of the use of vulgar language I do not rec
Oct 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I loved the backstory and historical tidbits in this novel. The author’s promise of a story, “like a length of lace itself, …woven from many strands that are twisted and crossed, first overlapping, then intertwining,” left me expecting something extraordinary. I think the book had lots of promise, but fell short. Anthony delivered, in that she created a marvelously twisting tale, and skillfully tied the various threads together over the course of her story. But the ending disappointed me, and I ...more
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
So.Many. Narrators. Honestly, I usually quite like hearing the story from more than one first person narrator. But this one has so many narrators, I can't even be bothered to go back and count. And one of these narrators is a dog. Under some circumstances, that would be ok. However, this book doesn't really lend itself to whimsy. It's actually rather dark and depressing so the dog narrating issue just jars the reader. It's a distraction to the story line and really adds nothing you couldn't figu ...more
Heather C
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
This novel was a very refreshing piece of historical fiction. The topic, the black market for lace in 17th century France, is one that I have not seen around before and was eager to read about. Anthony did not let me down and I was treated to quite the entertaining read.

As you move through this book we alternate narrators – we have: a lacemaker, a family whose life is ruined by a careless mistake made to a piece of lace, a dog who is used to smuggle lace, a guard of the boarder who is supposed t
Oct 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Who would have known that in the 17th c. a sheer piece of lace-delicate and intricately woven was preciously coveted, priceless and forbidden by law and the French king himself? The Ruins of Lace is a novel based on all the sacrifice, crimes, smuggling, corruption and the unimaginably wild extent that people went to obtain even the smallest piece of this craft.

Written in the points of view of seven people whose lives enmeshed each others’ all in the pursuit of their quest for lace: Alexandre wo
Heather Book Savvy Babe
3.5 of 5 Stars

*I received this book for review at Book Savvy Babe Blog*

The Ruins of Lace is a turn from what I generally read (romance), but this book piqued my interest and I had to give it a try.

With a cast of divergent characters in various levels of social standing, all united by forbidden lace, Iris Anthony has weaved together an intricate and intelligent novel.

There is so much to The Ruins of Lace that makes it a unique novel. The story is told from multiple viewpoints and characters who s
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book for a book club.

The story is told from different first-person perspectives. Each of these people, and one dog, are affected by the ban on the importation of lace by King Louis XIII. The setting is the first half of the seventeenth century in France and Flanders.

While this might seem a dull subject, one has to remember that banning lace meant that there was a black market and hence smuggling. How lace was smuggled will shock you.

The dog's story is very difficult to read. The ab
In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, lace was a most precious commodity in France. Frequently made in the abbeys of the Netherlands, the stuff was smuggled into France by the most ingenious and cruel means. Dogs used to smuggle lace were used and abused in the most despicable of ways. Corpses were frequently used to smuggle the lace as well.
The hands that created the lace belonged to children of poor families.Because the lace was s delicate and needed to be kept snow white, these childre
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
- A beautiful cover and a fascinating topic.
- Although some readers have complained about the structure or the alternating perspectives, I found this aspect of the book worked. It fit with the overall arc of the narrative.
- What didn't work for me was the lack of character depth.
- I'm not sure it had anything to do with the number of characters; but likely more to do with the author's handling of her multiple characters.
- For one, when you are writing in the 1st person, the author should lose th
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
My history was a little bit rusty. I had no idea that lace had been outlawed in France in the 1600s. The Ruins of Lace was a little bit of a history lesson for me. The one thing the book didn't really explain was WHY lace had been outlawed. A little bit of internet exploration gave me the answer. Bottom line, it had to do with only having nobility showing off their wealth and no one else. Google Sumtuary Laws for more explanations and other places where lace was outlawed, including the early Ame ...more
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
First line:

"It had been two months now."

Interesting book with eight different view points, including a smuggling dog.

Lace is illegal and worth more now than ever. Used as bribery, smuggled into France and made by nuns, Flemish lace is precious.

I really liked all the different points of view and how they came together in the end. I'm not sure I liked or understood the ending. But the journey was intriguing. I had a hard time putting the book (ereader) down.

The book starts with a nun who is a l
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Prior to coming across The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony, I never had any idea that lace was once contraband anywhere – let alone in France! I still find myself wondering exactly why a king would care about something so frivolous. But, I digress.

The story is told in first-person by several different characters. The reader always knows who’s talking. Each chapter is titled after the name of the speaker, and each speaker has a distinct voice. Plus, circumstances are different enough through most o
Our story starts with two sisters – Katharina, who is a lacemaker at the Flemish abbey of Lendelmolen; the other, Heilwich, who is a housekeeper of sorts to a nearby priest. Both stories are presented in the first person narrative.

As intricate as the pattern of the lace, the other voices are added to the story - Denis, a border guard whose job it is to seek out the smugglers; a dog used for smuggling; Lisette, a young girl who has fallen under the spell of lace; Alexandre, a young man with no fu
Denise Mullins
Sep 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
While a novel based on historic details outlining the gruesomely bizarre method of smuggling lace in 18th Century France represents a fascinating premise, Iris Anthony's handling of it was awkward and comical in all the wrong places. The seven alternating points of view should have added to the suspense and pacing, yet the poorly developed voices of the individuals (including a dog's) merely emphasized the clumsiness of interactions between characters.
Besides a lame interspersing of a few Frenc
Alysa H.
May 23, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Setting aside the question of whether this book is long enough to adequately develop 7 different POV characters, I was a bit puzzled by the consistently YA writing level/style, considering the varying ages of the 6 human characters (plus 1 dog), who range from young adult to 30something at least.

I can appreciate the way that the different perspectives wove together -- like lace, as the author points out in a somewhat grandiose foreword. The subject matter is indeed interesting, though I'd have l
Sep 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Phoebe
During the reign of King Louis XIII, lace was banned in France. The story of six people and one dog and the importance of lace in their lives during this time is told in alternating chapters beginning with Katharina. At 30 years of age Katharina is the best and oldest lacemaker in a convent. She is practically blind and sits hunched over. Her older sister wishes to buy her freedom but the head nun won't giver her up. When the nuns find out Katharina will be kicked out of the convent and fated to ...more
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 2 Feb 27, 2015 11:10AM  

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19 likes · 5 comments
“...lace is formed from the absence of substance; it is imagined in the spaces between the threads. Lace is a thing like hope. It lived, it survived, and it was desired for what it was not. If faith, as the nuns said, was the substance of things hoped for, then lace was the outline - the suggestion - of things not seen.” 13 likes
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