Monday, November 15, 2010

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse

Bestseller denotes a book that has sold many, many copies. However, does anyone ever track how many books have been read? That is, just because I buy a book and set it on my shelf doesn't mean I ever pick it up and read it. Nor does bestseller acknowledge the books that look good and get lots of hype but just don't live up to expectations. Recently I talked with friends about a memoir that had been heavily touted in the media. Two people separately told me they started the book only to put it down because it was boring and badly written. I wonder if in the future e-readers will allow statistics about how many people actually spend time with every page of a book...

These were my thoughts as I put down Sepulchre by Kate Mosse. A few years back a friend sent me Labyrinth which I read and enjoyed. But I wasn't over the moon about it. I feel very similar about Sepulchre. I liked the book. Mosse writes a compelling, detailed, historically accurate story. But in the end, I was disappointed. I felt like the book was 500 pages of hype for a relatively simplistic and facile ending.

Sepulchre, in the recent tradition of historical suspense stories, tracks the lives of two individuals in different eras whose worlds intersect. Leonie Vernier lives in 1890s Paris. Meredith Martin is a present day historian tracking down both biographical information about Debussy and historical information about her murky past. Needless to say, there is a connection between the two women - at the very least, the fascinating tarot cards they both possess.

Mosse presents a well-researched historical reality. Her knowledge of Languedoc France at the turn of the century create a believable world. But her character of Victor Constant - the bad guy - is remarkably one-dimensional. The present day villain is not well enough fleshed out. For all of the immense detail Mosse includes, she needed to spend more time giving her villain a motivation for his obsessions.

In the story, Mosse's characters talk about Dan Brown and links to the Templars. Needless to say, Mosse is attempting to separate her story from Brown's formulaic pop fiction. Yet, Mosse falls into some of the same traps. All of the drama is easily explained away. The suggestion of more is never really fulfilled.

According to Goodreads, this is the second book in the Languedoc Trilogy. I can't find a link between the stories aside from the geographical location. I am curious whether she intends to write a third book which brings all of the characters together. If so, it seems relatively far fetched.

All in all, I'm glad I read it. I learned a few things. But I would have rather spent the past couple of weeks on something better.

1 comment:

Playing by the book said...

Hi Gwen,
Just wanted to invite you to submit a post to the next I can read carnival, which I'm hosting from Dec 8-12th. Would be lovely to have you take part. Also, saw that Vampire Weekend are on your playlist at the mo - I saw them live 10 days ago - they were amazing!