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I generally really like Delia Sherman s writing, but this was not quite what I expected I don t mind slow moving novels about court intrigue or aristocratic households, but most of the characters were over the top unlikable to me The narrator is billed as being clever and sharp tongued, but she struck me mostly as distant and a little cowardly, rarely able to stand up for herself or anybody else, or even to express a strong opinion, even as everything around her dissolved into pandemonium The most likable character is Pompey, then Linotte, but both disappear after a while on various quests The only people Berthe seems to like is Pompey and Adele, her mistress for reasons unknown, as this woman displays absolutely no positive personality traits And of course, TW as in every adult novel with women as main characters, a bunch of people inevitably end up raped including Linotte, in that classically florid faux historical prose think V C Andrews, but toned down a notch , not to mention dismembered, then raped again I guess TW Lovely But it s ok, because the ghosts of the children killed that way come back and Berthe s mistress breastfeeds them into peace Or something.Oh well. Have you ever wondered what an epic fantasy quest story owuld be like if told from the perspective of the regular people who got left behind Yeah, me neither But apparently someone has, and that was clearly the inspiration for this book However, it s 95% historical fiction and it just keeps goingand going.and going I should have given up a long time ago Generally if it takes me than a month to read a book, it s not worth it But I got halfway through it and felt like I had spent too much time on it to just walk away More fool me Basically, fully half the book is a dear diary account of a chamber maid who seems to be in love with her mistress Some magicky stuff happens but everybody acts like it s just another Tuesday The French Revolution happens but they re not in Paris, so all the main characters survive A theater troupe comes to town and puts on a play and THE ENTIRE FANTASY PLOT IS RELAYED IN THE LAST THREE CHAPTERS OF THE BOOK If you re realllllllllly into historical fiction, then be my guest If, like me, you were expecting a clever variation on a classic fairy tale, or even a historical fiction novel that detours into magical realism a la Felix J Palma s The Map of Time you re going to be sorely disappointed It s very rarely that I view any book as a complete waste of my time but this was it Two stars only because the author clearly did some painstaking research on the era, and the narrator is well developed even if she is dull as dishwater. In eighteen century France, Berthe Duvet becomes chambermaid to Ad le du Fourchet, later the Duchess of Malvoeux Centuries later, Berthe tells the story of a curse placed on the Duke s family which drove them all to madness and isolation until the youngest child and only daughter set out, against the backdrop of revolutionary France, to bring back the porcelain dove and break the curse A lush period piece overlayed by both French society and everpresent magic, The Porcelain Dove is somewhat contrived but is still an enjoyable and imaginative novel The story moves slowly and the period styled language may turn away some readers, but Sherman s protagonist is sharp witted, her characters vivid, and the heavy influence of magic sets her book apart I recommend it The Porcelain Dove is somewhat difficult to summarize the curse placed on the family and the porcelain dove that will break it lies at the heart of the book yet makes up only a fraction of the plot For the rest, Berthe leisurely recounts her own and Ad le s lives, lingering sometimes on the fantastical such as the Duke s obsession with birds and sometimes on the wholly mundane Nor does the plot tend towards contemporary politics, despite the revolutionary setting The book moves at a slow pace, pushing the titular aspects to the end and making the text seem somewhat longer than its 400 pages, although it never quite becomes boring Further, Berthe writes in the language appropriate to her time and setting, and so the text is heavy with tis and twas as well as than a handful of French phrases and these aspects, too, weight down the book The overall style feels somewhat contrived and just a little unbelievable, and it may deter some readers.However, beyond these aspects and in the case of the slow storytelling, sometimes because of them , Sherman nevertheless weaves an intriguing tale Berthe is a servant, but her story is larger than life a witty narrator, she writes from isolated, heavenly immortality the house she serves is plagued by curses and obsessions magic overlays almost all of her story Sherman is not shy of magic and does not constrain it to hints and glimpses, but rather, almost like a character, it takes a central role As a result, everything becomes brighter, a little absurd, and is set on a grander scale These magical aspects are not always positive, but where they are dark they are also amusingly absurd, and even where they create conflict they do so in a way which, not unlike the a fairy tale, spin a fantastic story for the reader.I picked up The Porcelain Dove because I ve recently begun reading fantasy of manners novels, but this book contains little of the plotting and social intrigue that generally defines the genre and concentrates much on those overt fantasy elements which are usually dismissed In that respect the book was something of a disappointment, but read for its own right I m quite glad I picked up this novel For those with an appetite for slower moving novels and with the patience to read through the contrived language, this book offers a magical tale While not perfect and in some ways unmemorable, The Porcelain Dove is a welcome change from usual historical fiction, mixing a period setting with imaginative fantasy and a sharp narrator I enjoyed it, and I recommend it. Review forthcoming Re reading.This books is narrated by the maid of a young girl who is sent off to marry a French nobleman right before the French Revolution The story follows their marriage and children and what happens to them as a family There is a curse of sorts, or maybe it is a blessing, but it s magical and separates the family from the world of war.The I read this book, the I appreciate the hard work put into it, the imagination and dedication to re creating a sense of language, though not literally, but with mood and pacing, and the beats of sound.It s dense, it s mannered fiction, it s got some really wicked characters It s also a history, so the narrator at times is distant.But I love it It lingers on and on and on.4th read. 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 F es in my house I d highly recommend this for anyone who liked Ellen Kushner s Riverside series Sherman collaborated on one of them. I must admit I m disappointed in the novel Which is a shame, as Greer Gilman gave it praise and I absolutely adore her work Delia Sherman, not so much.Ah, the French Revolution probably one of the most exciting periods in history and yetsomehow in the magical land that I forget the name of, it s a light sneeze Originally I thought it was going to be about that, the Revolution, but no It s some very odd combination of fairytale, which I think I would ve enjoyed without the French part, and historical fiction, which was not interesting with aristocrats untouched that s where the fairytale part comes in, I guess in the country safe from the world at large.I could not stand the main character Just, ugh If she was in love with the woman she was a maid too, I wish it would ve just been shown as everything is pathetic innuendo Really, I got the point that she d do anything at all for Madame and hated the Duc, blahblah where s my spoon for my eyes blah It s a sad thing when it takes nearly the entire novel to get to the interesting parts in the last few chapters.What utterly confused me as well was the use of thee and thou when the characters were actually speaking, but the main character s modern voice in the first person narration and oh, right, all of the French dropped left and right Perhaps it was done for feel or some sense of authenticity, but for me it was overkill Particularly when it came to fashion Christ on a cracker, use the term but show me what the heck it is While I do love historical fashion and find it interesting, I m not sitting there with my guide to 18th century French clothing at my side Or a French dictionary.Thus, it was okay I could appreciate the idea behind it and I think it could ve been a lovely read save for the fact that it wasn t for me Maybe for someone else. The Goodreads blurb claims that this book is Narrated by the family s chatterbox chambermaid, it is a rich, sinister, and funny novel of romance, sorcery, and aristocracy I found almost all of these descriptors to be false The maid s no chatterbox While the setting may be rich and the plot and some characters sinister, it wasn t at all funny But most disappointingly it wasn t even that interesting I kept waiting for the real book to start And while I was patiently wading through words to get there, the whole book passed and then ended I kept hoping for the book I imagined it to be and didn t much enjoy the book that it was. An enchanted tale set during the French Revolution, resonant of Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard, and Sleeping Beauty, and drawing on many fairy tales For the most part, this reads as a densely descriptive historical fiction told through the perspective of Berthe Duvet who is the lady s maid to Adele, Marquise de Malvoueux Names, ranks, hierarchies within the chateau are detailed and complicated to keep up with at first Berthe is the traditional lady s maid, devoted and loyal to her lady from childhood She was raised in Paris, and never really feels at home at Beauxpres, the chateau, but wherever her lady stays, even when under an enchantment and in fear of revolting peasants, Berthe remains This is a quest tale, like so many fairy tales the first two sons set out to break the family s curse, and fail The twist in this tale, is that the third child is Linotte, a girl who ventures out dressed as a boy And she has a little help from magic There is a deep, dark forest, where the origin story of the family s curse began With such beauty woven throughout most of this book, of the dresses, jewels, and grand aviary, there is also such dark horror as we learn what men are capable of As with many fairy tales, there is a black vein of trauma and abuse, which is literally and symbolically buried beneath the castle.This is much than a fairy tale There s a sense of social realism, especially with the hunger and living conditions of the poor, and their treatment by the rich and the church I felt some parts were dense and repetitive, but the further I immersed myself in this story, the richer and rewarding it became. Review originally published at FanLit reposted here with some casual commentary.I really can t argue with most of the points in Emma s review, though I enjoyed the experience than she did I agree with her that Illusion is a lot fun For a newer take on the period, so is Enchant e Years ago, I got into fantasies of manners at about the same time as I was going through a big Revolutionary France phase When I heard about Delia Sherman s The Porcelain Dove 1993 a fantasy set in that time period, and which won the Mythopoeic Award for 1994 it sounded like the perfect book for me I could never find it in the used bookstores, though I did, before I successfully committed the title to memory, buy two different other books thinking they might be it The rise of e books has fortunately made it possible for us to track down some of our elusive great white whales, or in this case, our porcelain doves.I don t know what gave me the idea The Porcelain Dove would be a light, frothy novel It is not It is also, contrary to what you might expect, not a novel of court intrigue when the characters go to court, it is dealt with only briefly Nor does it focus on the Revolution as much as one might anticipate If you are looking for lots of courtly or revolutionary content, Paula Volsky s Illusion has of both of these If anything, The Porcelain Dove is a sort of gothic fairy tale, revolving around a woman stuck in a house filled with nasty secrets.Berthe Duvet is the loyal, sensible lady s maid to a noblewoman, Adele She follows her mistress first to convent school and then, upon Adele s marriage to a duke, to the estate of Beauxpr s The first half of the novel contains little fantasy, simply narrating the events of the noble family s lives and those of their servants It s a slow start, and the mannered writing style will also not be for everyone.Gradually, the ugliness at the heart of Beauxpr s is revealed to the reader I started out thinking, OK, this family is kind of vapid Then it was OK, they re vapid bigots Then, OK, they re vapid bigots, and several of them are abusers and rapists Then a curse falls upon Beauxpr s and the family s fortunes begin to decline The curse has its roots in the crimes of a depraved ancestor he s based on a horrific real life figure, and the description of his acts is extremely upsetting to read Berthe stays on, even when most people would nope out she s devoted to her mistress, and besides, she doesn t have anywhere else to go.To break the curse, someone will need to embark on a quest to find the mysterious Porcelain Dove That someone is not Berthe Her role is to try to keep everyone at Beauxpr s alive, through increasingly bad conditions, until the curse can be broken.Essentially, we end up with a book that s roughly half conversations with unpleasant people, and half trauma It s strangely compelling, though, and kept me reading it as doggedly as Berthe persisted in serving Adele There are some fairy tale elements threaded throughout Some are overt Beauxpr s has a room dedicated to the magical treasures featured in various classic tales Others are subtle There are plotlines that echo Bluebeard and Sleeping Beauty, for example, and a nod to every story in which three siblings in turn set off on an adventure.I found The Porcelain Dove disappointing overall There are too few likeable characters, the pace is too slow for long stretches, and the curse doesn t make much sense if you look at it too closely Why wouldn t the wizard have cursed the man who actually wronged him, rather than his descendants Yet I can tell a great deal of work went into the novel, and as I mentioned above, it did keep me reading and curious what would happen next I m glad I finally had the chance to read it. ^FREE DOWNLOAD ⇘ The Porcelain Dove ✗ Narrated By The Irrepressible Chambermaid To A French Duchess, This Exquisite Blend Of Authentic Th Century Memoir And Classic Fairy Tale Is A Dazzling Story Of Devotion, Intrigue, And Superstition As Literate And Compelling As Possession Or The Volcano Lover