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The Coral Thief

3.2  ·  Rating details ·  1,586 Ratings  ·  326 Reviews
BONUS: This edition contains a The Coral Thief discussion guide and an excerpt from Rebecca Stott's Ghostwalk.

Paris, 1815. Daniel Connor, a young medical student from Edinburgh, has arrived to study anatomy at the Jardin des Plantes—only to realize that his letters of introduction and precious cora
Published September 15th 2009 by Spiegel & Grau (first published November 2nd 2008)
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Alison Moore
Like several other reviewers I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I’d hoped, and the plot and characters failed to come alive for me, despite the author’s impeccable credentials (she’s Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia). I found it hard to engage with the book even though it has plenty of winning elements, which have worked well in other novels. There’s the Paris coming of age novel in which a young man comes to Paris and falls in love with an o ...more
Dec 15, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Even though the subject matter interests me, the book did not. I wondered why I was so bored when the setting should be so interesting. The main character and narrator is ridiculously naive in a way that is frustrating and unbelievable. The woman who alters his destiny at no point seems like a real person. Her motivations make no sense. The historical details, while obviously meticulously researched, seem clunky. They should be woven into the fabric of the plot so that the reader absorbs them, ...more
Jan 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-novel
To me, The Coral Thief promised more than it delivered. The premise is exciting: a young Englishman, Daniel Connor, wants above all to be a scientist and travels to Paris to join the exciting realms of scientific research and thought still blossoming in post-Napoleon Paris in summer 1815. But his life takes a new turn when his precious fossils and manuscript trusted into his care disappear with a mysterious woman on his way to Paris. When tracking the woman and his belongings, Daniel ends up in ...more
Oct 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura Carter
Apr 29, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I can't finish this book. Maybe it's because I read several bad reviews before I even started it. I really did want it to be good. I just don't care about any of the characters, and I'm not even sure the author wants me to care about them. It seems like the author was more concerned with showing off her linguistic prowess than actually making an interesting, readable novel. I am not one to leave a book unfinished, but I really see no point in wasting my time finishing a book that I don't even wa ...more
Jul 28, 2009 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Gave up around page 70, not enough to interest me to even slog through it at the gym. Almost cut the cardio short to shorten the pain.
Feb 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: If you like your science, romance and history together. And if you don't mind science lessons. :P
Plot: 7/10
Writing: 9/10
Characters: 10/10
Ending: 7/10
Historical detail: 10/10
Engaging: 7/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall: 8/10

Daniel Connor is a young promising student from Edinburgh, that is, until he gets his most important valuables stolen, which includes rare specimens, letters of recommendation and a manuscript. His thief ends up being a woman who has a particular interest for science and species. But when he starts mingling in her world, things become a little too dangerous for him and his job
In Paris in 1815, everything is changing. Napoleon is in exile, on his way to Saint Helena. France has a king again, and in Paris new streets are being laid, old buildings torn down. The freedoms, or illusions of freedom, of the Revolution are disappearing: Paris is no longer the place where any idea can be expressed. And Daniel Connor, a medical student who does anatomical drawings, is there to see it all: he's come from Edinburgh to study with Georges Cuvier at the Jardin des Plantes. At the s ...more
Elizabeth Richards
I'm a GoodReads winner, and so is The Coral Thief! History, intrique, the cloaked mysterious woman.....I was captivated from the beginning, and then, the one passage that inspired me to finish reading the entire book the very first night I picked it up... "She could have chosen any of us. But she chose me." A brilliantly written novel that reminds us to ask ourselves, " What footprints will I leave behind." You'll enjoy the journey along side the main characters and you'll involve yourself on wh ...more
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. In fact, I think I am the target audience for this very sub genre of historical fiction, but nothing grabbed me. Connecting with any character or idea in this book was just not possible for me.
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The plot is based a decade or more after the French revolution and the age of “Terror”, just after Napolean’s defeat at Waterloo. The story follows a young medical student, Daniel Connor, into the bedlam of Paris.
Paris, then, is the beating heart of Europe – the scientific, cultural and political center. As the city is coming to terms with the new regime, students from all over Europe are travelling to Paris to
make their own careers. And Daniel is just one of them– an aspiring researcher; Daniel
I "won" this book by entering goodreads' first reads drawing. Score! I am fancy and have an advance readers' edition. It's interesting to get a little peek into the book publishing/marketing process. We'll see how the book turns out; I've just started.


So I finished the book a couple of days ago and I have to say I was a little disappointed. The premise is fantastic: a British medical student travels to post-Napoleon Paris to study with a scientist whose project consists of painstakingly ca
Nov 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It’s 1815 and Daniel Connor, fresh out of medical school in Edinburgh, is full of excitement as he arrives in Paris to begin a research assignment at the famed Jardin des Plantes botanical garden and museum under renowned Dr. Cuvier. On his journey he meets a mysterious and alluring woman who tantalizes him with intriguing discussions of “transformism,” the beginnings of evolutionary theory. But it turns out that beauty has disguised her real intent. When Daniel wakes from an ill-advised nap he ...more
Sep 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Rebecca Stott’s goal was to create a vivid feel of Paris after the Napoleonic wars, this novel is a complete success. As for the plot and characters she builds this vibrant setting around, they definitely take a backseat in her vivid re-creation. Her story starts as an intriguing mystery novel, young scientist Daniel Connor heads to Paris to study with the greats in a nexus of brilliant and important thought of the day, Paris. On the train into town, he is near hypnotized by a beautiful stran ...more
Aug 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like your historical fiction to be filled with vivid imagery, then Rebecca Stott is the author to read. One review went so far as to say that she has created a new genre--the historical, scientific, romance-thriller. In The Coral Thief we are taken to Paris of 1815, shortly after the defeat of Napoleon by the British Navy at Waterloo and about twenty years after the French Revolution. Rebecca said that she spent time in the Rare Books Room at Cambridge Library where she came across an 181 ...more
Aug 14, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I was surprised that I enjoyed this book for its historical context. I was never a big fan of history, so historical fiction has never been much of a draw for me, but I wanted to give it a shot. Stott does an excellent job of weaving history in with her story to make both more interesting. I'd go so far as to say it's piqued my interest in this genre and the history of France.

The story was compelling enough to keep me reading, though not necessarily unique or inspired. I enjoyed the main charact
Such an interesting story. Full of history in Paris around 1815. Napoleon Bonaparte had just been defeated at Waterloo and was being escorted to the island of St. Helena. This story is about a young man, Daniel Conner, a medical student who had come to Paris to study under Georges Cuvier, a French naturalist and zoologist at the Jardin des Plantes. He falls under the spell of a mysterious woman and their story is woven through all this history of Paris . Bits of the story follow Napoleon on his ...more
I thought this book took a fresh approach. It's a crime novel from the criminals' perspective and the author makes these criminal protagonists interesting and sympathetic. They aren't Robin Hood types, but Lucienne the philosopher/thief belongs to the French aristocratic class that was the object of the Scarlet Pimpernel's mission during the revolution. So Lucienne might be considered peripherally related to Baroness Orczy's counter-revolutionary hero. Yet the attitude toward the revolution in ...more
Dec 12, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, europe
I really enjoyed The Coral Thief as a historical fiction piece (though the characterization could have been stronger, imo). Stott provided many fascinating facts about the Paris scientific community after the fall of Napoleon, specifically lots of emerging thought around the ideas of transmutation & evolution. Recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction w/ a dose of science.

Sep 03, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had a hard time reading this book. Events jumped around too quickly for me to follow, but perhaps that was the author's intent. I wasn't drawn to any of the characters. The story itself was intriguing, but it was a hard read to get through. For me, it wasn't one of those books that I just couldn't put down. It was just okay.
Ma Grendel
Interesting beginning, it ropes you in. But, the story is slow going from then on. Not enough excitement or satisfactory resolution at the end...bit of a let down for an old gal like me. I did enjoy the Napoleon references...amusing.
Jul 22, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3,5, vaikea sanoa kummalle puolelle kallistuu.
Dec 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable - period fiction (1815 Paris) with lots of well-researched science history and political history and just enough intrigue and romance to liven it up.
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I really wanted to like this more than I did. The premise was really interesting but I don't feel like it delivered on the promise of the first few chapters. Can't quite put my finger on what it was though.
Andrea Cox
May 15, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
by Andrea Renee Cox

I only made it to the third disc of this audio book. Expletives, sexual content, transgender issues, evolution, and alcohol were unnecessary and inappropriate. I will not be reading anything else by this author.
Jane Miller
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting quick read of life in France after Napoleon's exile. It was a time of speculation and questioning.
Aug 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
DNF @ 50%

While I can recognize the amount of effort and research that went into describing Paris following the fall of Napoleon, the characters were lacking. Daniel didn't seem to have much character at all and the coral thief didn't quite seem to fit the historical period.

With how lacking the characters felt in the first half of the book I really see no reason nor any motivation to continue on.
Aug 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amanda by: Random House
The Coral Thief is set after the battle of Waterloo which marks the end of the reign of Napoleon. Now I've read books set during the French Revolution (Mistress of the Revolution is awesome) but nothing set during this time period.

I'm a little torn over this book. I love the historical setting. And I wanted to love the characters...but somehow I just couldn't get close to them. There's a bit of romance, a bit of action, and a bit of Les Miserables going on.

So here's the story:

Daniel Conner, a st
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Rebecca Stott was born in Cambridge in 1964 and raised in Brighton in a large Plymouth Brethren community. She studied English and Art History at York University and then completed an MA and PhD whilst raising her son, Jacob, born in 1984.

She is the author of several academic books on Victorian literature and culture, two books of non-fiction, including a partial biography of Charles Darwin, and a
More about Rebecca Stott...
“On July 29, six days after I had arrived in Paris, Fin and I moved into the new lodgings on the top floor of the hotel next door, where, beyond the pigeons who occupied the window ledge, you could see the turrets of Notre Dame. The concierge told us not to feed the birds, but we gave them our stale bread just the same, and so our flock became a feathered multitude, pushing and shoving one another behind the cracked glass. In the afternoons the light seemed to have feathers in it.” 5 likes
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