The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony is not a story I will soon forget and it is one that I really enjoyed. There isn’t a lot of historical fiction that has to do with lace and when I saw this one I was automatically drawn to it just as I am to lace itself. For me lace is intricate, delicate, and beautiful and I find its patterns as fascinating as I did this story. The Ruins of Lace is a tale wrought with obsession, treachery, greed, and loyalty in seventeenth century France with lace smuggling at it’s center and it’s effects on the people.
Lisette is a young girl when she accidentally sets fire to a lace cuff of a nobleman visiting at her home. Unfortunately he doesn’t make allowances for young children’s mistakes and as her family didn’t have the money to reimburse the Count for the lace they ended up paying dearly for it in other ways in the years to follow. Alexandre is a young man that came to live with Lisette’s family and has always harbored a fierce love for her even though Lisette herself feels unworthy of anyone’s love after all the trouble she’s caused. Ultimately the Count demands as payment for keeping the families secrets that they smuggle him lace and this sets Alexandre off on a journey that will change not only his life but others as well.
On the other side is Katharina who has been making lace since she was a young girl. She is the best lace maker at the convent but after all the years of needlework her eyesight is pretty much gone. If you can not see, you can not make lace. So far she’s been able to hide it as she’s been working on the same pattern for a long time and can do it by memory and feel. Her sister Heilwich has been trying to get enough money together to buy her sister back because she knows what happens to the girls who are still young by the time they can no longer see anymore or are crippled up from the position they keep all day. They are thrown out from the convent and left to fend for themselves and for the most part are picked up by very undesirable men and used for unmentionable purposes. Heilwich will go to almost any extent to protect her sister from this fate.
This story is told from seven points of view, including even a dog (which at first was not a part of the story I liked), which can be a bit confusing in the beginning but quickly manages to weave itself together. All of these people, in one way or another, are involved in lace smuggling or the desire to have lace. I found it amazing that lace was ever even forbidden and have to admit to not knowing this as truth until reading this novel so I most definitely learned quite a bit reading this book. That brings me to the part of the story that I was most drawn to and that was Katharina’s life. I was horrified at the treatment of the young girls who were from poorer families that were forced into making the lace as they were essentially robbed of their lives. By the time Katharina was thirty she was blind and so hunched over that she seemed to be an old woman. I was fascinated though with the making of lace and the descriptions that the author uses were so vivid that I felt I could see and feel the delicate pieces of lace slipping through my fingers.
The Ruins of Lace is a fantastic story which is somewhat dark at times and yet funny in a few places as well. Iris Anthony has a beautiful writing style that simply flows from the page and I found myself being lifted away with this tale. I really hope to see more from this author because I wouldn’t hesitate to read another of her books which of course means I also wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one!
GIVEAWAY DETAILS (US/Canada)
I have one copy of The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony to share with my readers. To enter…
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This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winner on Saturday, November 10/12. Good luck!
Source: Review copy provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley. No compensation was received for this review and all thoughts and opinions are my own.