The Coral Thief
I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott.
I’ve always thought that no matter what was thrown in my path, no matter what trial and torment, if it happened in Paris I could take it. But the more I learn about The Terror, the more I think that may not be true. Can you imagine it? Your home, a modern vibrant city where your whole family lives, and even lives well suddenly plunged into catastrophic civil war and why? Does it have anything to do with you, the politics?
Doesn’t matter.Ê And if you think it can’t happen again or it can’t happen hereÊ wherever you are contemplate Sarjevo. Out of the Terror, Paris was forced to re-birth itself, and after so much blood and death came a time of at first tentative and then ferociously free thought. It was the birth of the modern world in many ways. Add to the wrenching dislocation of street battles with your neighbors the sudden talk about something called evolution in other words, your inner world was as upended as your physical one.
Rebecca Stott has set her new novel, The Coral Thief, in 1815, about 20 years after the Terror and just after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo.Ê Into the newly open city comes a young doctor from the sticks. Daniel has a job waiting for him, but it all rests on the box of priceless coral artifacts he carries. That they are stolen before he gets to the city gates isn’t surprising; he’s a tiny bit of a rube, although very well intentioned. Daniel’s search for his stolen collection leads him into the well populated underworld of criminals and heretics, including the thief of the title, an elegantly crossdressing philosopher named Lucienne. She’s got a good reason to walk off with the coral, and Daniel has to decide which side he’s on.
Rebecca Stott has packed this novel with debate and curiosities and peopled it with characters both real and simply real-seeming. And of course, it’s Paris. You almost don’t need anything else.