Porcelain Dove

Delia Sherman, Author
Delia Sherman, Author Dutton Books $22 (416p) ISBN 978-0-525-93608-4
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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. (May)
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