Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book Review: Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat


Her mother executed for witchcraft, her father dead at the hand of a noble, Victoire Charpentier vows to rise above her impoverished peasant roots.

Forced to leave her village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for domestic work in the capital, Victoire suffers gruesome abuse under the ancien régime of 18th century Paris.

Imprisoned in France’s most pitiless madhouse – La Salpêtrière asylum – Victoire becomes desperate and helpless, until she meets fellow prisoner Jeanne de Valois, infamous conwoman of the diamond necklace affair. With the help of the ruthless and charismatic countess who helped hasten Queen Marie Antoinette to the guillotine, Victoire carves out a new life for herself.

Enmeshed in the fever of pre-revolutionary Paris, Victoire must find the strength to join the revolutionary force storming the Bastille. Is she brave enough to help overthrow the diabolical aristocracy?

As Spirit of Lost Angels traces Victoire’s journey, it follows too, the journey of an angel talisman through generations of the Charpentier family.  Victoire lives in the hope her angel pendant will one day renew the link with a special person in her life.

Perrat Publishing | June 2012 | 378 pages

My Review

3.5 Stars

Set in 18th century France prior to the start of the French Revolution, Spirit of Lost Angels follows the life of Victoire Charpentier, a young peasant woman raised in the French countryside.   Although poor, young Victoire is blessed with a family that loves her and the kindness of friends in her village.  But when her father is killed and her mother executed for witchcraft, Victoire is forced to move to Paris and work in service to a noble family.  Treated by her new master in a most brutal fashion, Victoire manages to escape back to her village and find contentment by having a family of her own.  Victoire's happiness, however, is short-lived, and in her grief she is accused of an unthinkable crime and sent to Paris' notorious La Salpêtrière asylum.  While in La Salpêtrière Victoire becomes friends with the infamous Jeanne de Valois, the key player in the scandalous affair of the diamond necklace, and together the women manage to plot their escape from the asylum.  While Jeanne flees to England, Victoire assumes a new identity and remains in Paris, where she is able to create a new life for herself.  This new life brings Victoire into contact with a group of woman of a revolutionary bent, and she finds herself caught up in the revolutionary fervor.   In a city and country under the threat of revolution, Victoire must decide whether she wants to fully embrace it or chose an altogether different path. 

Through her lovely descriptive prose, Liza Perrat brings both Victoire Charpentier and the world she lived in to life.  By following Victoire as a youth in a small village, to her move to Paris to work as a servant in a noble house, to her days as an inmate at La Salpêtrière, and finally to her post-asylum life within revolutionary circles, the reader is given a first hand account not only of Victoire's experiences but also of the changing political landscape of France itself.  While Victoire's life in Paris is interesting, especially as it showcases the role of women in the onset of the French Revolution, it is the narrative set in the small village of Lucie-sur-Vionne and in La Salpêtrière that best showcase Perrat's talent as a writer.  Indeed, the section of the novel concerning Victoire's stay in La Salpêtrière vividly illustrates what a horrible experience it must have been for those who found themselves housed or imprisoned within its walls.  As the novel's protagonist, Victoire is an overall well-drawn and sympathetic character and, as a result, readers will have little difficulty liking her.  Although Victoire is portrayed as intelligent and resourceful woman, her extensive knowledge of French and Parisian politics in the latter half of the book seems unrealistic for someone with her background.  As a result, the last section of the novel would benefit from additional detail regarding Victoire's self-education, which, although acknowledged, mostly takes place off page.  

Overall, The Spirit of Lost Angels is an enjoyable novel that is sure to appeal to fans of the French Revolution era, as well as to those who enjoy novels featuring strong heroines. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this novel by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.