readingtrance

book reviews by Althea

The Porcelain Dove – Delia Sherman *****

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Back in 18th Century France, just at the cusp of the Revolution, a small but wealthy country estate is hit by a fairy curse – and the few people within are trapped. Immortal, comfortable, all their needs seen to by invisible servitors – but they cannot leave. There’s little to do to pass the years but put on plays and amusements, and well, to cultivate the acquaintance of the local ghosts.
Berthe, who was once a maid in the house (centuries of being trapped in a small group has done quite a bit to erode class lines), at the ghost Colette’s request, writes the twisted tale of how they all came to be caught like flies in amber.
I really enjoyed this book. (I was particularly delighted by it after being really disappointed by Sherman’s ‘Changeling.’) The setting is vivid and fully realized, the flavor of the writing is wonderfully wry and witty, and the cast of crazed and odd characters is fascinating. It’s not so fast-moving and does give the reader a sense of stasis – but after all, the characters are caught in such a stasis.
But I loved it – all of the comedy-of-manners-esque interactions, the bizarre obsessions and hopeless quests, and oh yes, how magical objects are something you just might choose to collect, like painted fans or decorative china plates. (I want a cabinet des Fées in my house!)
I’d highly recommend this for anyone who liked Ellen Kushner’s ‘Riverside’ series (Sherman collaborated on one of them).

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