Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony

Check your closet.  Do you see any lace?  Perhaps a camisole subtly edged with it, or maybe
a ruffled rich with a crocheted version?  Whether you find something or not has a lot to do with your personal taste or maybe it has more to do with current fashion trends.  Most certainly, the presence or absence of lace has nothing to do with its prohibition by the government.

When I first read a trailer to Ruins of Lace I was immediately intrigued.  I knew that lace was once made totally made by hand; my knowledge coming from a sister-in-law who took up bobbin lace making while she lived in London.  It takes hours and hours to make a bookmark or a lace collar.  To think that once all lace on shirt cuffs and dress adornments was made in such a manner is a little mind boggling.  When I read in the book preview, that Louis XIII in 1636 forbade the wearing and making of lace, I was astonished and intrigued. Like countless other tales of human nature, prohibition and restriction breeds an intense desire to possess, and with it, fertile ground for crime, greed, and inhumanity.  This is the story Iris Anthony tells in Ruins of Lace.

Just as the white threads from multiple bobbins are unwound and twisted to create a complex pattern of lace, the individual lives and stories of multiple people unwind and then twist together around a certain length of Flemish lace in this book.  Iris Anthony skillfully reveals fragments of each person's story, then moves on to another character and another bit of the story.  Finally all meld into one story.

In the end, I must give this book a mixed review.  I was swept into the story by the author's skillful story telling and character development, but the story itself, however authentic, is dark and disturbing.  Only the slightest glimmers of humanity can be found.  A dog plays a central role in the book, and its treatment will be shocking to most readers.  Anthony ( a pseudonym), herself, had trouble writing this aspect of the tale, but she bases its inclusion on documentation of thousands of dogs which were killed during this time period. For those reasons, my recommendation is a cautious one. As a commendation,  I believe I will always remember this book and the plight of lace makers such as Katharina and Mathild whenever I see lace in the future.  For that, I thank author Iris Anthony.   I received an e-copy of this book for review purposes.  I was not required to write a positive review.

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