I just finished reading The Coral Thief. I’m not entirely sure how to classify this book. It’s not a thriller, it’s not just historical fiction, and it’s certainly not a mystery or even a love story. Well… it is a love story of a kind in which the author clearly loves Paris.
The plot is fairly simple: boy meets woman on a stagecoach, woman robs boy, boy falls in love with woman. The rest is fairly boilerplate and would be a dull slog if not for the fact that the writing is compelling, the characters at times rise above average, and the historical setting of post-Napoleon Paris is enchanting. At times the characters are cliché – the tough French inspector (Javert apparently), the mysterious stranger, the ex-royal now turned thief, etc. You’ve seen these characters before. But the story holds together for all that as it’s stitched with lovely images of Paris before the Paris you know now. You will still know the Marais, but now instead of a tourist-thronged mess it was a warren of thieves and beggars. You will be amazed to hear of people washing clothing in the Seine.
I recommend seeing “Midnight in Paris” before reading this book. It will help set the right tone.
Source: Amazon Kindle: The Relic Master: A Novel
I like Christopher Buckley books. I tend to find them funny and I also tend to learn something new as they are set in history that I usually am unfamiliar with (or at least deeply familiar with).
This is a fun romp. A little dark at times and somehow feels unfinished, like the editor didn’t quite do the job. But if you have a yen to read about a “relic dealer” i.e. someone who bought and sold pieces of the bodies of saints or of their implements or of the Holy Cross, or the Shroud of Turin then this is the book for you.
I found several items of interest in this book.
pari passu: this means “side by side” Read more at location 811
- “And here, perhaps, was the greatest irony of all: Frederick himself remained devoutly Catholic. So far as anyone could make out, he didn’t agree with Luther on a single point of his heretical doctrines.” Read more at location 819
- This was an interesting nugget of information and something of which I was unaware of in the history of the Reformation.
“Take away a Spanisher’s red paints—his massicot, sinopia, carmine, bole, cinnabar, lac, madder, solferino, vermilion, Pozzuoli, crimson“
- I liked this quote simply for the many ways of describing “red”.
- hortation: to exhort or to urge on. I’d never seen this usage before.
- peine forte et dure: a form of medieval torture. It means ‘hard and forceful punishment’.