Book Review: The Ruins of Lace

ruinsoflaceThe Ruins of Lace
by Iris Anthony
326 pages
Published 2012
Historical Fiction

The Ruins of Lace is told from 7 different points of view, and while at first they appear disconnected, they slowly touch each other, then weave in and out, like lace itself. The story revolves around the creation, sale, and smuggling of banned lace in 17th century France. The points of view are a lacemaker, her sister, a girl who once ruined a pair of lace cuffs, the man who loves her, a lace-smuggling dog, a border guard, and a petty noble fighting for his inheritance.

As much as I’ve read about 17th century France, the clandestine lace trade was one aspect I really didn’t know about, so it was interesting to see how it impacted common folk and nobles alike.

While not as spell-binding as some books I’ve read, The Ruins of Lace was definitely thought-provoking. What drives an otherwise good man to smuggle lace and risk his honor/title/fortune/life? Without the viewpoints of the lacemaker and the smuggler’s dog, you could imagine lace-smuggling to be a victimless crime. Including the viewpoints of those two was brilliant – you can’t say the man who needs the lace isn’t hurting anyone. If there wasn’t such demand for the banned lace, girls wouldn’t sit in convents and go blind making it 24/7.

All in all, a very good book on a little-known aspect of 17th-century France. The differing points of view are a little confusing at first, but once you settle in and know the characters, it’s fairly easy to follow the storyline.

From the back of The Ruins of Lace:

The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France, pulling soldier and courtier alike into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything – or anyone. 

For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who now demands an impossible length of it. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits. 

A taut, mesmerizing story, The Ruins of Lace explores the intricate tangle of fleeting beauty, mad obsession, and ephemeral hope.

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