This was our last book club pick and it had all the ingredients of a great read. But somehow it fell short on almost all levels.
Daniel Connor is a young medical student who is on his way to Paris in 1815 (shortly after Napoleon has been exiled) to study with the top researchers at Jardin Des Plantes. Once there he realizes that his credentials and rare coral specimens that he was to present to his new supervisor have been stolen by the mysterious and beautiful woman who sat next to him on the ride into town. He gets pulled into her secret circle of thief friends, finds himself falling in love with her, and there's French police chases, mystery, and capers. Yet somehow it all.... I don't know... felt a little Snoozeville to me. Which apparently Blogger doesn't deem a real word.
I had a hard time believing the "love" between Daniel and the coral thief - who we come to know as Lucienne Bernard, I didn't find her particularly likable, I thought he was a bit boring and in the end, I had a difficult time feeling engaged in the story. There wasn't anything very specifically wrong with the book, I just never found myself dying to pick it back up. In the end, most of the book club members felt the same way so there was obviously something missing here.
All that said, I don't want to be a complete Negative Nancy so I will say that there are chapters that follow the story of exiled Napoleon and they were great. I'll confess to very little French history and this was a peek into a fascinating era that made me want to read more (about Napoleon, not more of this particular book). I also liked reading about the Paris of 1815 - the underground passages, the police, the stolen art that filled the Louvre, and the exotic animals in the Jardin located in the center of the city. I wish I'd known more about this period in history before we traveled to Paris.
1 week ago