Friday, July 6, 2012

The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony

Lace can be a thing of beauty, threads intertwined in intricate and often delicate patterns. Yet the history of lace has an ironic dark side, no less intricate, but tainted with corruption, smuggling and the harsh labor conditions of those who made it. Ruins of Lace takes place during the reign of Louis XIII of France in the 1630s. Lace was outlawed by the king and smuggling of it, across the border from Flanders, became a dangerous, lucrative business. Anthony weaves information regarding the making of lace and its illicit path to France with the interwoven lives of her characters. Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of the character. The characters even include a dog which was one of thousands used to smuggle lace. The chapters narrated by a hapless border guard are engaging and wryly told. There are characters with whom one feels compassion and others who create disgust. In the end, one realizes that while the non-living thing, lace, is considered to be of great worth, each of the people, living beings, is struggling to find his or her worth, in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Each has a past, sometimes interconnected, that influences their present stories. While the book comes to an exciting conclusion, the reader is left with a little uncertainty. Perhaps the author is leaving her options open for a sequel. All in all, it was a light, entertaining book that also educates the reader about lace and its dual nature.

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