Holy Fools by Joanne Harris

This is how it begins: with the players, LeMerle, and the bird of malchance..

‘What is beginning?’, you’re wondering. Well, the story of Juliette and her own bird of malchance, a thrilling story of revenge, betrayal, lies  and easily manipulated nuns. In seventeenth century France, after years filled with theatre, crime and near-death experiences, Juliette has finally built up a peaceful life for her and her five year old daughter Fleur. However, after five years of peace in the safe abbey of Saint Marie-de-la-Mer, her luck turns and she is reunited with her former lover and tormentor, Guy LeMerle, also known as: The Blackbird. As she expects: Guy brings nothing but trouble with him, but what she can’t forsee is the horrific plan he has in mind for her and the rest of the holy fools.

Holy Fools is the eighth in the impressively successful streak of Harris’ books. Yet again she has managed to create another bestseller. That her book had so much success seems strange, reckoning that the idea of it came from a French history text about  Christians, which is not something that tends to excite most people. Still the book is praised by many, so what is it that makes it so delightfully entertaining? Answering that question can’t really be done in one sentence, for  the book’s high quality has several reasons.

First of all, the story can only be described as great. It is fun, exciting ,well thought out and filled with unexpected turns; but what makes it really special is the originality of it. Unlike most, this story contains no heroes and no didactic moral, but does contain mendacious, aggressive, horny and even evil nuns, while these normally symbolize innocence and purity.

Another very good aspect of this book are the characters. Of course the sinning nuns alone are something outstanding, but what’s really remarkable are the two main characters. First there’s Juliette, who is a strong, independent young woman, who is good at heart but can be dangerous if she needs to. Second is LeMerle, who is just a dark, evil, treacherous snake (or in this case blackbird). Though they sound interesting enough, their not so original personalities are not the remarkable part. It’s their character development. During the book Harris tells about many details and little secrets of their lives and describes their thoughts so beautifully detailed, that at the end of the book, it almost feels as if they’re old friends (or enemies..) of yours.

The last reason is something that real literature lovers may not appreciate, but the larger public certainly does. It is that even though the book is filled with details, French words and describes life 400 years ago, it is very easy to read.

 

It ends, as it begins, with the players.

These things combined create the wonderful and very entertaining novel that is Holy Fools, and to anyone who can appreciate a little dark humor, is not set off by a strong, female protagonist and doesn’t mind reading about a bit of french history, this book is highly recommended.

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