Saturday, November 12, 2005
If you're a fan of TC Boyles "The Road to Wellville" you'd love "The Remedy," where each chapter begins with the recipe for a quacks potion, one that is then used during the chapter by a character. This book was entrancing, and though the characters aren't really heroic, due to their selfish and possessive ways and their ability to kill or cause pain to others with abandon, the reader still finds him or herself rooting for the love of Valentine and Mimosina to win out over their lies and deceptions. Pevenche, the fat daughter no one wants gets the last word, which bothered me a bit, as I wanted the book to end with Valentine and Mimosina being totally honest with each other and marrying after they realize they really are two of a kind. The view that this book gave to the street quacks and remedies of the 1700s in London and Venice was exquistie and powerful. The characters fascinate, even in glimpses of their lives, and the passions of the Italians vs the English are so well delineated, I found myself wondering if the author lived in Venice and has actually created some of the remedies and help to hawk them, and had a splendid and labyrinthine love affair with an Irishman herself. The prose style was suitably ornate and read as if the author were a product of the period, which made the reading experience all the richer. My only wish for the book was that the author had defined some of the ingredients of the potions in modern terms, so that the reader would know what those items were that were going into these elaborate decoctions. Many of the items listed were things that I had never heard of, and wondered if they were fabricated words or real items that were called that in the 1700s and are now called something else. Other than that, I'd highly recommend this book for those who enjoy glimpses of the past lives of fascinating people in Europe.