Friday, December 7, 2012

Review: SPIRIT OF LOST ANGELS by Liza Perrat

As villagers drag a frantic mother to the river to "float" her for witchcraft, she yanks her talisman, a carved bone angel pendant, from her neck and presses it into her daughter's hand. "Wear it always," she tells Victoire. "It will give you strength, and courage."

Victoire Charpentier, heroine of Liza Perrat's debut novel SPIRIT OF LOST ANGELS (Triskele Books 2012), has need of both, and in great quantities. Set during the height of the French Revolution, Victoire's story is one of survival: of poverty, of loss, of depression, imprisonment, and political upheaval. It is the story of a woman who, plagued by melancholy and accused of a crime she cannot remember, escapes from a hellish prison with a new identity and a renewed purpose: to wreak revenge on the nobles that stole her father and her virginity, forced her to abandon her child, and changed the very fabric of her life. It is ultimately a story of vindication, of healing and of new beginnings, a testimony to the ties of blood and the power of words.

SPIRIT's plot moves at a pace that at times leaves the reader breathless. So many misfortunes befall Victoire that one wonders how a woman prone to melancholy could possibly withstand them. Yet weather them she does, with a resourcefulness that never seems forced. Perrat brings an inventive freshness to Victoire's plight and ultimate redemption. A prison friendship with Jeanne de Valois, the notorious con woman behind the infamous Affair of the Necklace that brought down Marie Antoinette, sets Victoire on a new path in life, providing her the resources to live as a single woman in Paris and an entry into the world of the theater and the salon. A literate and skilled storyteller, Victoire writes plays that further the ideals of the Revolution, satires that expose the cruelty and shallowness of the nobility; she translates the feminist tracts of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and pens similar pleas of her own. Words become the weapons of her revenge; she uses them both to lay her ghosts to rest and to open the path to a better future for women of the lower stations.

But in the end, it is her roots that Victoire returns, to her village in the Lyonnais, to the family that remains and the inn waiting to be reopened. To the questions that linger, the events she can't remember, the witness who, at long last, eases her guilt. To the future, born of a painful past without which it never would have taken flight. True to her name, Victoire triumphs over adversity, passing on the legacy of strength and courage she received from her mother.

SPIRIT OF LOST ANGELS is itself a triumph for the author, a vivid and evocative first novel that convincingly recreates the tumultuous world of eighteenth century France. Strong writing, unexpected plot twists and a heroine who never surrenders to the seductive tug of oblivion kept this reader turning pages until the story's satisfying end.


Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years. When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator.

Since she completed a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

She has completed four novels and one short-story collection, and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency.

SPIRIT OF LOST ANGELS, published  in May 2012 under the Triskele Books label, is the first in a historical series set against a backdrop of rural France. Her agent is currently trying to sell the second in the series, WOLFSANGEL, and Liza is working on the third story, ANGEL OF ROSES, set in the 14th century plague years of France.

For more information on Liza or her books, please refer to her website or blog.

Liza provided a guest post, published earlier this week, on Lyon's Fête des Lumières.


Liza Perrat said...

Thanks so much, Julianne, for a wonderfully insightful review. I do appreciate it!

Julianne Douglas said...

Glad to help spread the word about SPIRIT, Liza!