A Tale of Two Worlds
It starts by throwing the reader into a Parisian fashion boutique, where Mme Fabron converses with customers on one hand, but also has the gift of Second Sight which explains the human (?) thoughts at the beginning. So, is The Devourer ‘just’ another ghost story?
Nothing as simple as that! Chelser took me into a Paris that no longer exists, into a society with 19th century attitudes, into the Cité’s narrow streets and alleyways before Baron Haussmann had completed his public works program.
The background of this novel - be it fashion, codes of conduct or locations- was very well researched.At this point, I might as well have turned to other books on the trials and tribulations of that era, but the writer did not stop there.
Within a few dozen pages I was immersed in customer service of a fashion shop, a marriage of broken dreams, a grieving mother and a murder. Soon there was a glimpse into a world of which the citizens of Paris were mostly unaware. And that was where the mystery started, where nobody and nothing was as it seemed, where I was persuaded to pity a monster, feel compassion for a beast and in the end smile at a major character death. Having tissues nearby had been a good idea.
What lies between is something I would heartily recommend any prospective reader to find out for themselves, including trying to figure out the tiny nod to one of Victor Hugo’s novels at the end. Btw, the scene works well without that knowledge.
For me, ‘The Devourer’ is one of the books where one reading is not enough as it offers so much to discover.
A word of advice: to appreciate the difference in the description of two different worlds takes some concentration, Do not let yourself be deterred, it is well worth reading.
(review of free book)