Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Genevieve, a skinny, precocious little monkey with a mind full of philosophy and the power to read the swirling waters of an oracle glass, is taken in by La Voisin, an ingenious occultist and omnipotent society fortune-teller. La Voisin also rules a secret society of witches – abortionists and poisoners – who manipulate the lives of the rich and scandalous all the way up to the throne. Tutored by La Voisin, Genevieve creates a new identity for herself – as the mysterious Madame de Morville, complete with an antique black dress, a powdered face, a cane, and a wickedly sarcastic streak who is supposedly nearly one hundred fifty years old. Even the reigning mistress of the Sun King himself consults Madame de Morville on what the future holds for her. And as Madame de Morville, Genevieve can revel in what women are usually denied power, an independent income, and the opportunity to speak her mind. Beneath her intelligence and wit, what drives Genevieve is a private revenge – but what she doesn’t expect is for love to come in the bargain.
It wasn’t a bad book for a pseudo-historical fiction, not bad at all. I liked its heroine, a young girl without a future but with a gift of divination, mainly because she was intelligent and funny. Her stooped back and one shorter leg were such drawbacks in an era when a girl should be pretty first and intelligent later (or never).
Also la Voisin, the powerful 17th century French witch, drew my attention to the plot effectively – I’d written an essay about her once and was curious how the author dealt with such a complex personality. I am pleased to say she was rendered well – a ruthless, even amoral woman, tough as old boots, but also surprisingly witty and, overall, rather likeable.
What was not especially good was the length of this novel and the fact that the narration was very slow-moving, almost sluggish at times. And I wish there were more history interwoven in it Oh well.
A lightweight historical fiction with an intrepid heroine and some nasty poisons. I don’t regret reading it but I do feel it didn’t fully exploit its potential – it could have been better but it could have been much worse too.