Under the Poppy

Kathe Koja, Author
Kathe Koja, Small Beer (Consortium, dist.), $24 (376p) ISBN 978-1-931520-70-6
Reviewed on: 08/23/2010
Release date: 11/01/2010
Ebook - 300 pages - 978-1-931520-88-1
Paperback - 360 pages - 978-1-61873-027-5
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The latest from Koja (Skin) is a page turner with riveting language and close attention to sensory detail. Set in late 19th-century Brussels, the story follows the adventures of puppeteer Istvan and brothel owner Rupert who bond as friends and lovers. The first half of the novel is set at Rupert's brothel, Under the Poppy, a haven for bawdy puppet shows and loose women. With war in the air, the brothel is forced to house soldiers led by a corrupt general. A mysterious assault on Rupert leads to more violence and an exodus of prostitutes from the establishment. Istvan and Rupert, with one of the former working girls, who morphs into a theater owner and puppeteer, leave as well and arrive in a new town, where they cavort with a family of aristocrats that includes Isobel, who falls for Rupert (as does her young brother, Benjamin, the family heir). Koja's style is unconventional, resulting in a melodrama with deep insights into character and a murky plot balanced with prose as theatrical as the world it portrays.(Oct.)
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