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Friday, 7 March 2014

Empty Shelf/Mad Reviewer Challenge #12 - Holy Fools, Joanne Harris.

Ever thought life in a convent was quiet or boring? Joanne Harris is about to change your mind on that.

This is the story of Juliette. She was once an actress and rope-dancer is a travelling company of players, but through a dire set of circumstances she was forced to flee and decided to hide out in a convent under the name Soeur Auguste. She has a daughter, Fleur, who lives in the convent with her and the sisters. However, her contented life is about to be turned upside down.

The Abbess dies and a new one is brought in, She is only eleven or twelve years old, however, and brings with her a man whom she says is her confessor. Juliette knows him better as LeMerle, the head of the various travelling companies she used to go on the road with. She knows that LeMerle is not here having changed his ways and seeking a new life in the Church. She knows he is up to something, but has no idea what.

I always learn so much about writing whenever I read a book by Joanne Harris. 'Holy Fools' is just one example (among many) of how well she does plot. This book feeds you in titbits, tantalising rather than frustrating, and when you think you have finally figured out the puzzle Harris hits you with another surprise.

Another reason why the book is so good is because of the dual narrative. Dual narrative is such a tricky skill to master and I've read more than one book in which I couldn't distinguish between the two voices. I've thought I was reading from one person's POV when actually I've been reading the opposite. Happily, that's not the case here. Juliette and LeMerle have distinct, strong voices and Harris switches between them with ease. Each character, even the minor ones, are developed with a strong sense of self, and everyone is needed to play their part in this story.

I won't give away the ending but it is great. It builds up towards the finale with increasing urgency and speed, shown by the short lengths of the chapters, and goes off with a bang. Even in the aftermath it doesn't fall flat. The loose ends are tied together well making for an ending that could be seen as both satisfying and uneasy, depending on your point of view and opinions of the characters.

A hugely enjoyable read, I thoroughly recommend.

Until next time!

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