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Porcelain Dove Paperback – July 1, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fantastic in every sense of the word, Sherman's ( Through a Brazen Mirror ) second novel is a skillfully crafted fairy tale that owes as much to E.T.A. Hoffman as to Charles Perrault. The time period hardly matters: for 200 years, the chateau of Beauxpres in the Juras has been removed "from the circle of the world." Its inhabitants, who are provided for by nearly invisible servants, never age and never leave. How and why this happened is the heart of the story recorded by the sensible, courageous and forever loyal, Berthe Duvet. Berthe's story really begins in 1758, when she first becomes femme de chambre to the young Adele du Fourchet, and follows/guides her rather giddy mistress through school at Port Royal to her eventual marriage to the duke of Malvoeux. Soon Berthe, Adele and the duke leave Paris for the duke's ancestral home, the magical and menacing castle of Beauxpres. Like his ancestors, the duke has inherited both a mania for collecting (in his case, birds) and a particularly grizzly curse, which, combined with the realities of the French Revolution, intrude upon Adele's sheltered world. Although the title and some 'tis-ing and 'twas-ing may seem twee, The Porcelain Dove is no dainty vertu but a seductive, sinister bird with razored feathers. BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A mixture of fantasy and historical fiction, this work traces the fortunes of the ducs de Malvoeux during the last days of the ancien regime and the beginnings of the French Revolution. Narrated by the duchesses' devoted maid, it is both a careful portrait of those brutal times and the tale of an ancient curse and a magical quest. However vivid an acccount the author paints of the last days of the aristocracy, she fails to breathe the same life into her characters or the plot, while the fairy story, foreshadowed for so long, comes into play too late to be as integral a part as it should. Of interest to devotees of French history or literature. BOMC selection-- Cynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (July 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452272262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452272262
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,608,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Jessica on November 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Why are there no reviews of this wonderful novel? Sure, it's out of print and annoyingly hard to find, but once it has been found, shipped, and bought, The Porcelain Dove is well worth the hassle of obtaining it.
Set during the French Revolution, narrarated by Berthe, the Femme de Chambre of a large chateau set far back in the French countryside, The Porcelain Dove is a wonderful tale of magic, misery, poverty, humor, wealth, social revolt, hatred, mercy, love, curses and journeys. In short, it contains everything, and with such an authentic voice and eye for detail that the reader cannot help but half-believe this story really was written by a woman growing up in the end of the eighteenth century.
All of the characters in this novel are realistic and multideminsional and interesting, and the narrarator is a gem; intelligent, truthful, and both romantic and pragmatic at once.
The biggest problem others (critics, etc.) seem to have with this novel is that it is too long and lumbering. All I can say is, Moby Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath, A Tale of Two Cities, and almost every other classic, beloved book is long and lumbering and slow, which is probably why kids hate reading them in school. However, far from being a handicap, I think such asides and digressions and tangents actually enrich the stories, rather than draw away from them. In a world full of pulp stories and generic Danielle Steele and fast-paced trash, classics that take a long time to read and immerse oneself in stand out simply because of the obvious care and attention and love that went into such works.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most extraordinary fairy-tale inspired novels I've ever read. Based on old French fairy tales, this magical historical novel concerns an aristocratic family during the years of the French Revolution. Intelligent, beautifully written, and subtle, the surface story (the magical part of the tale) is entertaining and enchanting, but what really makes this book special and memorable is Sherman's subtext: a subtle, dry, witty, and sharply pointed examination of gender and class issues. If you're looking for an historical novel (with magic around the edges) that is smart and challenging, I can't recommend this one highly enough. I've just finished re-reading The Porcelain Dove(after reading the author's excellent new book The Fall of Kings), and it leaves me wishing that someone would bring this fine, under-rated book back into print.
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Format: Paperback
In eighteen century France, Berthe Duvet becomes chambermaid to Adèle du Fourchet, later the Duchess of Malvoeux. Centuries later, Berthe tells the story of a curse placed on the Duke's family which drove them all to madness and isolation until the youngest child and only daughter set out, against the backdrop of revolutionary France, to bring back the porcelain dove and break the curse. A lush period piece overlayed by both French society and everpresent magic, The Porcelain Dove is somewhat contrived but is still an enjoyable and imaginative novel. The story moves slowly and the period-styled language may turn away some readers, but Sherman's protagonist is sharp-witted, her characters vivid, and the heavy influence of magic sets her book apart. I recommend it.

The Porcelain Dove is somewhat difficult to summarize--the curse placed on the family and the porcelain dove that will break it lies at the heart of the book yet makes up only a fraction of the plot. For the rest, Berthe leisurely recounts her own and Adèle's lives, lingering sometimes on the fantastical--such as the Duke's obsession with birds--and sometimes on the wholly mundane. Nor does the plot tend towards contemporary politics, despite the revolutionary setting. The book moves at a slow pace, pushing the titular aspects to the end and making the text seem somewhat longer than its 400 pages, although it never quite becomes boring. Furthermore, Berthe writes in the language appropriate to her time and setting, and so the text is heavy with "tis" and "twas" as well as more than a handful of French phrases--and these aspects, too, weight down the book. The overall style feels somewhat contrived and just a little unbelievable, and it may deter some readers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Susan Franzblau on November 28, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a brilliant book and one of my all-time favorites. Ms. Sherman manages to create a spellbinding tale, seamlessly weaving fairytale magic with the facts and people of the French Revolution. The plot is fascinating, with surprises, but, despite the magic, always realistic and real. The characters are human and they live in this book and in your heart. Her writing is exquisite, carrying you along on a wonderful adventure with a mood that's graceful yet sinister, but in the end absolutely satisfying.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Delia Sherman writes a story that takes the reader into the world of 18th century France, but with a fairytale twist. There are lords and ladies, wizards and curses, dark secrets and magic - and the very real French Revolution. The world of the novel is created with utmost attention to detail, especially when it comes to the French terminology used to describe clothing. I found that even though I didn't exactly know all the words (despite having studied French a few years), the presence of the foreign language added to the atmosphere of the novel. The French fit the characters, naturally.

In the heart of this story is an old fairytale core. There is a curse and it needs to be broken in order for happiness to return. In this case, the porcelain dove needs to be found. In the throes of the French Revolution the story unwinds, not without some serious damage to people and property.

Before we get to that point, there are twists and turns and delightful descriptions of life of the lesser French nobility and especially their servants in the late 18th century. The narrator of the story is Berthe Duvet, a lady's chambermaid to a young lady Adele du Fourchet who is then married to the Duke of Malvoeux. The Duke is the eccentric lord of the castle Beauxprés and he collects exotic birds. This might sound harmless enough, but there is a curse on the house of Malvoeux and that is what Berthe Duvet has to deal with while loyally attending to her mistress, now Madame Malvoeux. And as the secrets of the house of Malvoeux are revealed little by little, it's clear that the story has a very dark heart to it.

What I really loved about this novel was the mix of historical and fantastical.
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