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The Wise Woman: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, May 27, 2008
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That would be this book. Ann/Alys is a sociopath from the get-go and proud of it. And there's no explanation as to why. There's little to no reflection (which could have been interesting-is she mad at her assumingly abandoning parents? Mad at herself? At Hugo? The class system? Are the horror components real in the book's 'verse, or are they her delusions, or...IDEK). Not one character *stays* in character from beginning to end. The narrative disgust towards female bodies is disturbing, to say the least. Maybe this is just deep third person POV but it was relentless. And to make things a bit worse, frequent word-padding, describing things we already know, re-making the same point multiple times. Lurking in the shadows is the feeling there could have been more, there must have been some interesting backstory, some depths that could have been plumbed, but nope, we get this shallow hot mess.
I wish I hadn't read this but at least I enjoyed the other series first. I can't imagine reading this first and ever picking up another book by this author.
A long-time Gregory fan, I was not expecting THIS: a very unsettling, dark story with no redeeming characters - well, maybe Mother Hildebrande. When Alys succumbed for the first time to the temptation of her powers, I was so angry that I literally threw the book. But I picked it up again and found myself enmeshed in the tale.
I'd like to talk to Gregory about "WiseWoman." I see it as a brave experiment on her part, a cautionary tale about the dangers of straying from ... goodness. She has ingeniously used an historical framework to tell Alys's story, showcasing the inequities, political intrigues, and superstitions of the era while wrenching the reader into an examination of his own beliefs.
I would not want to read many books like this. But I am glad I read this one.
I love the imagery and plot twists but this plot got really strange and even odd in part, and it was the first time I didn't like the main character.
Gregory does her usual good job creating the world of the 1500's and I appreciate her efforts at historical realism. Her characters are essentially believeable and human, including Our Heroine, a young nun, Alys, who has fled her convent as it is burned down around her ears by Our Anti-Hero who later becomes the object of her sexual obsession. The underlying theme of the entire work is Alys's ambitious determination to become the Lady of the Manor, despite not being nobly born and there being a rival already occupying that position. Alys's skill with healing herbs shortly morphs into perilous experiments with dark magic in order to achieve her aim. She scruples at nothing in performing magical operations to enthrall Our Hero and disadvantage her antagonists. It is a truism that such magical acts most often rebound against the conjurer, as they do here, to her ultimate undoing.
I appreciated Gregory bringing the narrative full circle with the final scene mirroring the opening events. The action moves briskly, the dialogue rings true and I remained interested in the plot development throughout. Unlike others, I was not in the least offended by the sexual descriptions which were necessary to advance the plot. Despite the fact that Alys is an unscrupulous, grasping, ruthless protagonist, I was still interested in finding out what happened to her and felt the conclusion to be quite satisfactory. This is not a serious work of historical fiction a la Penman, for example, but not a trashy bodice ripper either. Entertaining, but ultimately silly.