The Ruins of Lace

Iris Anthony
The Ruins of Lace
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Release Date
October 2012
Historical fiction

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 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.

For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who know demands an impossible length of it. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits.

A taut, mesmerizing story, The Ruins of Lace explores the intricate tangle of fleeting beauty, mad obsession, and ephemeral hope.

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Sep 18, 2012   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
90 people found the following review helpful
And now for something wonderfully different. THE RUINS OF LACE is an ambitious, meticulous novel full of lush descriptions and fascinating details. With a diverse group of narrators ranging from a blind lace-maker to a lonely dog, this is a book whose structure is as intriguing as its plot. Like lace itself, the beauty lies in the spaces between the narrators' stories, as well as in what they say.

To delve too deeply into this plot would be to take away the pleasure of watching it unfold. But when the plot opens in late 17th century France, lace has been forbidden by royal decree—thus making it the most valuable commodity imaginable. Smugglers employ any means necessary and possible in order to get lace over the border to France from Flanders where women ruin their eyesight and their lives in order to produce more and more intricate patterns for their secret customers. The risks are incalculable, but so is the reward for those who know the real power of the lace they hold.

Such wealth and such power can make or destroy in moments. Lisette Lefort learned just such a lesson as a child when an innocent mistake led to disastrous consequences. Determined to save her family, she makes a deal with the man who is intent on ruining them. But Lisette's cousin, Alexandre (probably my favorite narrator), who has loved her in secret for years, is determined to save Lisette and sets off on a perilous journey into the world of lace smuggling.

On the other side of the border, Katharina Marten has spent her life and given her eyesight to produce the most beautiful lace that she can. Living in a convent at the mercy of the nuns who took her in as a child, lace has given Katharina a reason to go on living after the loss of her parents and ensured that her sister can have a chance at happiness. But now that she is of little use to the sisters with her eyesight fading, Katharina's sister, Heilwich, is determined to buy her freedom before she is cast out. But just as the price for lace is unthinkably high, the price for a lace-maker can be incalculable.

I loved the intricacies of this book and the way the different narrators' tales wove together. Though I would have liked a little more variation between voices, the viewpoints, desires and dreams of each of these characters was so distinct that I became swept away in each of their stores. This is a fascinating, ambiguous story, where the villains are as sympathetic as their victims, and the most innocent acts can sometimes be as damning as the cruelest betrayal. Truth be told, I loved one of the more corrupt characters of this book more than most, and didn't realize that his vibrant man was the same odious villain that another character had previously described. The humanity of every scene brought each narrator and their world to vivid life and made the construction of the story as memorable as the plot itself.

Though not necessarily a traditional romance, this was nonetheless a story built on love of one kind or another, and it was that love that drove each plotline to its eventual climax. An ambiguous ending makes the reader a part of the story, daring them to interpret the implications of all the decisions, all the mistakes and all the passions that have led to the final confrontation.

The historic details of this plot are fascinating, from the broad details to the minutiae of daily life and gives structure to the wonderful imagination that infuses each scene. I was carried along from the opening paragraph and would eagerly read another of Iris Anthony's works. This is a book to be savored and remembered long after the final page has turned.
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