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Bookmarks Issue: 
10-May-June-2004
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A Novel

A-HolyFoolsWhen former gypsy tightrope artist Juliette and her daughter seek refuge in a remote convent off the Brittany coast, identities change and sinister plots hatch. Juliette, hiding from the troupe leader who impregnated and then deserted her, reinvents herself as the peaceful Soeur Auguste. But when her kind benefactress dies, a new abbess enters, and welcomes in Juliette's former lover, Guy LeMerle, now disguised as a priest and intent on revenge. The convent's quiet solitude is soon shattered.
Morrow. 355 pages. $24.95.

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Despite some occasionally heavy-handed symbolism, Holy Fools is a fantastic reading experience. ... When [Juliette] narrates and intermeshes [her] tales with the maddening religious hysteria that is mounting at the abbey, the tone is chilling." Kristin Kloberdanz

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"...a riot of an end-of-Renaissance romance. ... Holy Fools itself reads like a play unfolding, from exposition with clear foreshadowing through stagelike scenes, to the artfully suspenseful climax, set in an incense-thick, candle-lit sanctuary, with nuns wailing and whirling, and the three conflicts converging and poised for catastrophe." Christine Wald-Hopkins

Orlando Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"Like the street jongleurs of the times, the talented Harris is a smooth juggler of fictional elements, crafting Holy Fools into a layered, mesmerizing gothic thriller with excellent cinematic potential. ... The harrowing cat-and-mouse game that ensues makes for a page-turning plot." Susan Lynne Harkins

Rocky Mtn News 4 of 5 Stars
"Holy Fools is chock-full of the dazzling, magical style that made Harris famous. ... Harris has created a good old-fashioned revenge and redemption story, punctuated with superstition and high drama." Ashley Simpson Shires

Detroit Free Press 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Holy Fools is exciting and dramatic and romantic. ... It lacks the redemption-for-all closure of Chocolat, but I can definitely see Johnny Depp as the bad boy." Susan Hall-Balduf

SF Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The medieval setting gives Harris ample opportunity to poke fun at religion and hypocrisy, as she does in all her books. ... When the incendiary action unfolds ... we're on the edge of our seats, which almost makes us forgive Harris for putting us through all that waiting."Regan McMahon

Newsday 1.5 of 5 Stars
"[Holy Fools] is rich in descriptive writing, but it substitutes a cast of flat characters for any kind of in-depth engagement with its historical setting, and the result is a sadly evacuated wannabe page-turner. ... Holy Fools has sacrificed a great deal to get out of the romance aisle." Bethany Schneider

Critical Summary

With few exceptions, critics agree that Harris's new novel is just as sumptuous as Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, and Coastliners. Much more than a tale of revenge and redemption, Holy Fools delves into maternal bonds, love and betrayal, 17th-century politics, and the abusive power of the church. Harris varies her theatrical retelling of Juliette's story with flashbacks, journal entries, and even LeMerle's own voice, giving the novel depth but some unwelcome frenzy. LeMerle is especially captivating; after all, who isn't attracted to oozing charm? If the novel tries too hard to be both a historical and romance novel, so be it. Overall, Holy Fools is as dazzling and dramatic as the tightrope act itself.