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Friday, October 2, 2009

The Coral Thief - Rebecca Stott

I recently received The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott from Random House to read and review. I wanted to review this one because I love historical fiction novels which are set in periods of revolution and change.

The Coral Thief is set after the battle of Waterloo which marks the end of the reign of Napoleon. Now I've read books set during the French Revolution (Mistress of the Revolution is awesome) but nothing set during this time period.

I'm a little torn over this book. I love the historical setting. And I wanted to love the characters...but somehow I just couldn't get close to them. There's a bit of romance, a bit of action, and a bit of Les Miserables going on.

So here's the story:

Daniel Conner, a student from Scotland, is on his way to Paris to study anatomy under the prestigious Jardin des Plantes. During the late night coach ride into the city, Daniel notices among the other passengers an attractive woman with a small child. He naturally strikes up a conversation with this lady on the long trek to Paris. The next day, he awakens on the coach to find the letters of introduction to the school missing as well as some coral specimens which were meant to be a gift for the school. Embarrassed and annoyed at his loss, he wants to know who this lady was and why she would steal these things. Daniel's quest for takes him into fascinating territories of post-Napoleon Paris.

I loved aspects of this novel. I was fascinated by the historical era this book takes place in. Rebecca Stott really made post-Napoleon Paris come alive. The characters were also so interesting. There was naive Daniel who really evolved and grew up throughout the story. The heroine of the novel - the coral thief - well, I just loved her. What a strong leading lady. And then the whole Les Miserables aspect (there's a Cosette type child and Javert type police inspector).

But the characters are the only problem with this story as well. They are a bit slippery. A bit mysterious. I couldn't quite get a grasp on them. Like the Coral Thief...I wanted to love her. She could really be one of my favorite literary characters...but the author kind of keeps her distance on the whole story. And I couldn't quite get what she was doing with Daniel.

A Girl Walks into a Bookstore reviewed this as well and mentioned that the writer seemed "emotionally detached" from the story. I totally understand what she meant. I'd love to see this story expanded and/or adapted into a movie or something. I would still recommend it for the historical time period it covers. And the Coral Thief...we'll, she's still a really cool character.

Also Reviewed by:

A Girl Walks into a Bookstore

Under the Dresser


  1. This book was an Early Reviewer book for last month on LibraryThing. I did not request it for some vague reason that I couldn't place when I read the description. Glad about that now! :) I took a history class on the French Revolution and that whole time period is fascinating. I have Mistress of the Revolution on my To Read list once my To Be Read pile gets smaller. :)

  2. I love the cover of The Coral Thief, and hope to read it soon. I enjoyed your review.


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