Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony



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.

One of the benefits of reading historical fiction is that not only is there a good story to be told, but it is also a learning experience. This was exactly the case with Ruins of Lace. When lace was invented, it was a rarity, a luxury for the likes of kings and queens, and the wealthiest of society. And even if lace could be afforded by the lower classes, the nobility banned it to keep it exclusive. Those talented enough too learn the art, were forced to work under horrendous conditions where they suffered extreme eye strain and strict discipline by their masters or mistresses. And when lacemakers lost their eye sight and could no longer work, they were kicked out of the facility in which they worked – their only hope to become prostitutes to earn a living.

Just like the complexities and intricacies in the making of the delicate lace, this story unfolds in the same way. Set in 17th century, Ruins of Lace is about a young girl named Lisette who is one of the best lace-makers in all of France. When she accidentally burns a lace cuff that belongs to a visiting nobleman, and her family is too poor to replace it, it sets off a chain of events with far reaching impact to herself and her family.

Told through the voices of seven characters, slowly their stories become linked into one, making a very strong story. Lace smuggling, treachery, obsession, and love are all themes that are threaded throughout the novel. Vibrant prose, a fascinating story-line, bigger than life characters, and rich historical detail make this a very appealing story. Highly recommended.