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After finding myself engrossed in Kate Mosse's epic take on the Holy Grail legend, Labyrinth, I was intrigued to find that she had subsequently published two further books in a loosely-linked "trilogy" of stories based in historical France. I was therefore delighted to see a copy of the second, Sepulchre, carried in my local library and snapped it up when I visited recently. The third, Citadel, was published last year.
I've already elaborated on the author's background in my write up of Labyrinth so I'll move straight on to the book itself. To give some background on Labyrinth, it was a new story about the concept of the Holy Grail told both through the life of a young girl in Crusade-ravaged France and a modern-day woman who finds her own life is linked to the past. Sepulchre follows in a similar vein, although here we move away from the Holy Grail topic and on to a new story.
1891. Sepulchre opens with a brief account of a funeral in Paris. A young woman is being buried before her time, another stands by her grave in mourning.
Further along in time, the young Leonie Vernier becomes caught up in the anti-Wagner riots in Paris before being rescued by her beloved older brother, Anatole. They dine together, while their beautiful mother, Marguerite, does so with her war hero lover elsewhere in the city.
Shortly after, Anatole is mugged. His name already not massively popular in Paris, Leonie worries that there is more to what she is being told, particularly after seeing him in a poor state some months earlier with no explanation.
At the same time, Marguerite receives a letter from the young widow of her half-brother, now the heiress of his estate, inviting her niece and nephew to spend some time with her in the country away from the noise and bustle of Paris. Initially reluctant, Leonie realises that her brother could do with some peace and agrees to go, despite having never previously met her Aunt. Her brother's keenness for the escape, and seemingly overly cautious exit from Paris, raises further suspicions in her that he is not telling her the truth about the mugging, however.
At the Domaine de la Cade, Leonie meets her young Aunt and soon finds herself growing fond both of Isolde and of the estate that she has inherited, an estate from which Leonie's mother has estranged herself at a young age without explanation. Of an inquisitive mind and a lover of dark gothic tales, Leonie also delights in the comprehensive and wide-ranging library left by her late Uncle, and in doing so stumbled across an old mystery that she cannot leave alone.
Back in the modern era, Meredith Martin travels to France to study further for material to include in her work on Debussy, the imminent publication of which has dominated her recent life. Although she does have a pressing personal matter of huge significance, she does not envisage how this trip will become more connected to that than to her research, but as she nears a hotel in the Carcassone region of the country, she starts to pick up the strands of clues to her own past and cannot resist following them further. Spurred by a disturbing and unexpected encounter with a tarot reader and a distinctive set of cards, she also starts to find herself wrapped up in a deeper mystery that reaches back a century previous.
As with Labyrinth, I was hooked.
When I took this book out of the library I also borrowed the similarly history-heavy retelling of a commonly known tale, The Historian. Whilst, unlike that or Labyrinth, Sepulchre is not the telling of something that everyone already knows of, it is in the same style of story telling. It touches not only on history and love, relationships and families bound or torn apart by secrets as Labyrinth, but also on topics of the occult, spiritual resonance and what we modern creatures would call the supernatural.
Straight away Mosse's easy, engrossing reading style is evident. Whilst her protagonists are again two intelligent, inquisitive young females in both stories, as with Labyrinth, her characterisation is well structured. Critics might argue that there are too many similarities in the plot structure as other characters are introduced - and indeed there are - but for me, taking Sepulchre as a different story rather than as a second instalment in a trilogy, I can take this as the story itself is engrossing, fascinating and unfolds in such a well-crafted way that I could barely put it down. Indeed, for one day, as with its predecessor, I could barely rip my eyes away from it for hours. Admittedly, if I were to find a copy of Citadel and find it has the same structure, I might start to feel frustrated, but as things stand I think that the writer has crafted two fabulous tales and as such I can accept those similarities for now.
Again Mosse has executed the switch between eras with expertise - knowing precisely when to swap to the modern era or back to young Leonie at the right time to keep the reader desperate to find out more, and spending exactly enough time on each section of both story to make the reader immersed in that heroine's tale to the extent of almost forgetting why they were so desperate to return to the former's at the initial chapter change.
The stories both develop with believable depth and characterisation, the honesty of the protagonists believable, although the "bad guy" of Leonie's story is far more elaborated upon and thus more enthralling and powerful than the modern day equivalent in Meredith's story. If there is one criticism, that aspect of the modern story is probably the weakest element of the book, but I think that to elaborate strongly on that the book would go from being an epic to being too long and the rhythm of the two stories unfolding would be compromised.
So in conclusion, I loved this. In my opinion, moving from the religious to the supernatural has been a well-executed move from Mosse and I found this to be on a par with Labyrinth if not slightly better - this may be because my interest in religious matters is far less than my open mindedness towards more spiritual, dimensional and supernatural myths and theories and their basis. Again, the historical account feels accurate and well researched, and Mosse also uses without overselling it, a plot technique that I in particular for some reason really like, that of bringing back previous characters in smaller roles in a new work. This, and the geographical location, is the link between these three novels, as opposed to a trilogy in the Tolkein-esque sense.
I completely loved this book. I was absolutely enthralled and ploughed through it. Whilst it is long, and at times I couldn't believe that I had been reading for hours and still had barely passed halfway, but the readable style of prose makes this enjoyable and I would feel frustrated were it any shorter as I enjoyed reading it so much. The heroines from both eras were believable and human, with flaws but strength, and it is easy to feel support and affection for them, particular young Leonie, forced to suddenly break through her state of a girl becoming a young woman on a monumental day in her life that rocks everything she knows to the core.
I hope that I haven't elaborated too much in setting the scene for anyone who might read this, but I assure you what I have noted down is just the start - this book has far, far more to offer, and I hope that if you decide to read it then you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Currently on Amazon in paperback for just over £5, also available in Kindle form. 784 pages, printed by Orion.
I had Kate Mosse's Sepulchre on my read list for a while.I am always looking for something to get my teeth into and I had previously read "The Labyrinth" and greatly enjoyed it. So when I saw 2 books for £5 in WH Smith a week or so ago I decided that this would be one of the two.
Sepulchre is a story about two women set in different times. Leonie Vernier in 1891 and Meredith Martin in 2007. The book is split into 12 parts and alternates between the two centuries. Kate Mosse writes beautifully and which ever time you are in you cant wait to get back to the other. I really could not put this book down but also didnt want to finish it, you know what I mean.
The story as a whole revolves around a deck of Tarot cards. Leonie Vernier goes to stay at a house called Domaine de la Cade where her Uncle has found a ruined Visigoth Sepulchre that has some very haunting secrets. Meredith Martin is looking for her real family roots after being adopted as a young girl. She also ends up at Domaine de la Cade some 116 years later after having a tarot card reading and becomes immersed in the story of Leonie Vernier.
I have not travelled to Carcasonne region of France but it is described in such detail that I felt that I had been there when reading this book. When I read, that is one of the things that I like, and this book has it in spades. So if you dont like description and just want action this may not be the book for you.
The book mirrors the different times and the bad guy/s almost become one. You cant help but loath them and wish for their downfall. The other characters, especially the house servants, seem very real and likeable. Sepulchre is at sometimes sad, mostly chilling, but always engrossing book.
In all a very readable book and one I will miss now I have finished it.
Following from the success of her novel Labyrinth, Kate Mosse tried to take some of its successful formula and translate it into ta new and intriguing story. However, much like Dan Brown's formula, you sort of know what you're going to get before the end of the book comes along. The style is very much the same as Labyrinth, taking two timelines and telling what is essentially two different stories that intertwine between the lines.
First of all, Mosse introduces us to Leonie Vernier in 1891, who escapes to the south of France with her brother to their aunt's Domaine de la Cade. Here, the world of tarot cards enters Leonie's life. Concurrently to this, Mosse tells us of Meredith Martin in the present day, visiting France to explore the life of Claude Debussy. She, too, ends up at the Domaine, now a hotel, and the tarot cards have significance for her, too.
Essentially, the strongest bond here is the tarot card link. The Bousqet tarot card set is featured in both time zones, and much with Labyrinth, Sepulchre sees Mosse showing what a great researcher she is, elaborating at length in her descriptions of the cards and their history. Historical knowledge is definitely her forte, as I have come to realise with reading both of these books.
The problem comes with the fact that all this historical delving somewhat overshadows the story at points. I thought the actual link between the two characters and the two time zones could have been a lot clearer than it actually was, and I found this was due to the elaboration of the text. I felt it would have worked with less of the factual and descriptive element, particularly with the tarot cards, and more of the action and the plot.
This doesn't mean it was a disaster: on the contrary. I find her writing style to be captivating, and it is the sort of book to read when you have a good long afternoon to relax and enjoy it. It's a book to take your time reading, and as the characters develop and the plot gradually meanders towards what is quite an intense and unputdownable ending, you'll get more and more obsessed with reading it at any given moment.
Sepulchre is a long book, kicking you with 700 or so pages in its paperback version. The hardback I read had nearly 550 pages itself, so it's well worth realising this is no quick holiday read, and that you'll need to give yourself time to read it if you're to fully gain a grasp of plot and understand the whole thing. Mosse develops the characters very well, perhaps better in the older timeline than the current one, with the frailty and appeal of Leonie much stronger than other characters. You almost get the impression that there is something of Mosse in both of the leading ladies. She deals with the male characters very well, painting them very much in a backseat picture and keeping the eyes on the prize of the tarot cards and how the links between Leonie and Meredith merge slowly and gradually.
Ultimately, if you have already read Mosse's previous book, Labyrinth, you will recognise a lot of the format here. The changes come with the places and the characters, but the traits and the format of hte plot remain much the same. And why not? It's a formula that has worked well before, and it works quite well again. I didn't enjoy it as much as Labyrinth, and I felt there was far too much historical fact and details about the tarot cards for my liking. However, this didn't spoil the overall enjoyment, and I'm glad I have read it, and recommend you do too.
yes, the odds were stacked against mosse considering the world wide success of her novel Labyrinth, but i was willing to give this novel a fair chance. the novel is the same setting and genre as her first novel, lookig at parallel lives of a woman in modern day france, as well as incorporating a second story parellel of a woman in france 100 years before. Mosse has obviously done a huge amount of research into the novel, and this is apparent in teh descriptions and the details given. Mosse has chosen to introduce the idea of Tarot cards, as well as the musician Debussy into the mix. personally, i enjoyed the novel, and found it quite a nice read after reading her first novel. the historical element to teh novel is incredibly interesting, and the descriptions of france will appeal to the historian/travller in us all. overall, a nice holiday read
"Sepulchre" was written by English writer Kate Mosse (no, not the waifish model), in 2007.
My paperback version has 739 pages, plus 32 pages of notes and information at the back.
Kate Mosse was born in 1961, and is better known for her 2005 novel "Labyrinth".
The novel has two narrators, from two different time periods.
In 1891, Leonie Vernier feels a little tied down by the constraints that society puts on her. Being a lady and all that. When she is given the oppertunity to travel to her Aunts isolated country house near Carcassonne, Domaine de la Cade, she is delighted.
She travels with her brother, who is anxious to leave Paris, for mysterious reasons.
When Leonie gets to her Aunts house, she uncovers a ruined Sepulchre, and unearths the many mysteries that surround the desolate house.
In 2007, Meredith Martin is trying to find out more about her heritage. Bit by bit, Meredith begins to unearth fragments of Leonies tale, and reveals what happened one mysterious night more that a century ago.
Firstly, it helps if you have a fair understanding of French to read this vbook. This isnt vital, but there are consistent French phrases littered throughout the book with no translation or explanation.
Which i appreciate this, as its not patronising the reader, I imagine it would be quite difficult for someone with no understanding of french whatsoever.
As it was, I think I might have made up my own translations. My French is rather rusty.
Anyhoo. this doesnt hamper the plot whatsoever. thought I would just drop it in.
The first three quarters of this book, I adored. i thought the main character of the 1891 half of the book was wonderful.
Leonie Vernier was spirited, full of life, utterly brave, and not at all the weeping fainting lady type creautre I am used to from historical fiction. No bosom clutching here.
Paris was painted beautifully, and the location descriptions were incredibly detailed.
If the whole book had been written from Leonies perspective, then it would have been a belter.
Unfortunatly, it wasnt. Half of the book was narrated in the present day by a dull as dishwater character named Meredith, who was not worth the paper she was written on.
Meredith is a cliched American character.
Her speech is littered with completely contrived *Americanisms*, which eventually rendered her completely unbelievable, and eventually incredibly irritating.
usually, I adore tight and descriptive detail in books. Unfortunatly, Sepulchre was so bogged down in detail that I began to wonder whether the manuscript got lost on the way to the editors. There is so much going on, so many little subplots, most of them leading absolutely no where. It was almost as if Kate Mosse had done years and years of incredibly in depth research, and then felt as if she didnt want to waste it, throwing it in wherever possible.
There is a whole plot line involving Debussy, whom Meredith is initially researching. He is brought up briefly in the past sections of the book, and I believed that his character would be important to the plot...yet he didnt really turn up again, and the whole plot line was left hanging, leaving me questioning why she had included it in the first place.
The two main plots, the past and the present, and brought together quite elegantly. i never felt as if the transition was jarring, and I enjoyed seeing how the two plot lines came together. However, whilst the dialogue and speech patterns in the past sections are believable, the present sections were just too contrasting. It was like Kate Mosse didnt trust her readers to be able to see the distinction between past characters and present ones, so she felt she had to make the present characters as modern as possible, and throw in as much slang as she could.
Another problem with this book, was I had no clue which genre it slotted into.
Initially, I thought "Sepulchre" was a ghost story. there are certainly some spine chilling moments, and I found myself sleeping with the lights on both nights that it took me to read it.
Unfortunatly, the chills were not consistent enough to be considered horror, or even really a thriller. Far too much time was spent on mundane actions, and irrelevant description.
Another gripe I have, is that the book was filled with mistakes. Surely the job of the editor is to weed these out before it is published?
I myself am not the best speller in the world. It wouldnt suprise me if this review was littered with mistakes, but I can recognise a grammatical/spelling error when I see one, and "Sepulchre" was teeming with them.
What bugged me most about this book (yes bugged) was the ending.
So, ok, all things considered, I actually considered the first 75% of the book. Dont ask me why. It is cliched and predictable, and overly descriptive and corny, but yes I enjouyed it.
The ending completely ruined all of that for me, and actually left me feeling rather bitter about the book in its entirety.
All of the bits that I had enjoyed, were ruined by this really really lazy climax.
As a whole, and mostly because of the poor ending, I found the plot to be really weak, completely unrealistic, padded with useless detail, with generally weak characters that its hard to feel anything for. The language is sloppy and contrived, the overuse of cliched American phrases is rather insulting, and the terrible editing and proof reading mean there is no possibility of becoming absorbed in the book.
I know that all sounds rather damning. Had I not read the end of the book, I think I would have rather enjoyed it. Perhaps thats what my advice to readers should be. Read three quarters of the way, and then let your imagination do the rest. I believe I could think up a far more convincing climax than Kate Mosse achieved with "Sepulchre"
The bestselling author of Labyrinth returns with her new offering, Sepulchre. I was not that taken with Labyrinth and am not too sure why I wanted to try her again to be honest but I did. Having heard so much hype about Labyrinth I felt let down when i read it, so my expectations of this book were low, and I was glad to say that my opinion of Mosse as an author has improved.
Like Labyrinth the book is set in the French area of Carcasonne. A historical novel in two time areas, 2007 and 1891 onwards. The story is one of family bonds, love and a bit of ghost for good measure.
The 1891 story follows Leonie Vernier and her brother Anatole as they go to stay in the south of France in a mysterious House that the neighbours are fearful of. Leonie stumbles across a seuplchre and a mystery soon enfolds.
In 2007 Meredith Martin is researching for a book she is writing, whilst looking into her own family and history; centered on a pack of tarot cards; also in the same area as Leonie Vernier.
I found the book quite dificult to get into, I didn't get engrossed in the story as fast as I did in Labyrinth and found the subject matter of Tarot cards annoying and despised it (probably due to the fact that I refuse to believe in any of that rubbish.) However once i had read a hundred or so pages (out of the 700!) i felt i was really into the story and was able to 'crack' onto it and I did become hooked.
A further thing I liked about the book was the short chapters! I don't know why but I cannot stand a book when it has long drawn out chapters that last for pages and pages; but I was pleased in Sepulchre that they were shorts, and I was able to pick up, read, put down in between Wimbledon Games and jobs with much ease!
Criticism of this book leads me into the realms of unneeded description and events. I am positive that some things included in the book could have been cut out, left out and deleted. At over 700pages long the book, at first, seemed like I was never going to finish it. Unnecessarily packaged with unwanted descriptions of a Da Vinci Code fuelled chase for relics, which was totally not needed was only there in my opinion to try and appeal to the mass following the Dan Brown has.
That being said, perhaps the inclusion of the whole Grail type quest would appeal to readers of Dan Brown, and for them I would recommend this book. Characters featured in Labyrinth return in Sepulchre, and events in Labyrinth are mentioned.
However the pit fall I suffered with this book, and the same happened in Labyrinth, was the ending. I hate the way Mosse ends her books with a whole sort of 'supernatural' way. It doesn't sit right with me. I can't believe it, or get my head round it and find the whole way the book ended, indeed both books, confusing. Although the ending of this book was somewhat less.
I think that this book was a easy read though. It was OK, nothing special really. A good book for the back of the car when travelling on holiday I think. If you are a fan of Brown, and a Mosse virgin try one of her books. If you really enjoyed Labyrinth read this book. If you loathed Labyrinth avoid this book! And, if you are like me, and were indifferent to Labyrinth, forget about Mosse, the book is nothing special.
The paper back version I bought from Amazon for £3.86 and includes reading group notes and pictures and a 'tour' around the Carcasonne area.
I absolutely loved Kate Mosse's book Labyrinth and so was really excited about this new book, Sepulchre, coming out. I went out to buy it on the first weekend of release.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kate Mosse lives between England and France. She is the co-founder of the Orange Prize for Fiction. She has written five other books: Labyrinth, Crucifix Lane, Eskimo Kissing and non-fiction works on the Royal Opera House and becoming a mother. Labyrinth won a prize from the Richard and Judy Book Club and Waterstones so expectations were high for Sepulchre.
Sepulchre is, like Labyrinth, ser in two different times. Half the book is set in 1891 and the other half in 2007. In 1891 we meet brother and sister Anatole and Leonie Vernier. We first meet them in Paris and soon discover that Anatole is in some kind of trouble there. Their mother, Margarite, receives a letter from their aunt Isolde (by marriage) offering a holiday for Anatole and Leonie in her house the Domaine de la Cade, near Rennes les Bains. Due to Anatole's problems in Paris he agrees and they set off, with him making sure he leaves a false trail in case his problems try to follow him.
We then meet Isolde, who lives in their mother's old family home, alone now that her husband has died. Leonie discovers a book written by her late uncle, about his experiences with a sepulchre in the grounds of the house. The book describes demons and a tarot deck, which Leonie sets out to find.
The 2007 part of the story centres on Meredith Martin, an American writer. She is in France researching a book on the composer Clausde Debussy, but is also searching for traces of her birth family. All she has of her birth family is a picture of a World War One soldier taken in Rennes les Bains and a sheet of music titled Sepulchre 1891. We first meet Meredith in Paris and then we see her have a tarot reading, with the same type of tarot cards as Leonie is trying to discover back in 1891. We then follow Meredith to Rennes les Bains where she stays in the Domain de la Cade, now a hotel, Julian, a shady character from the start. We then follow her as she tries, with the help of Julian's nephew Hal, to find the answers to her past.
Having enjoyed Labyrinth so much I was expecting a lot from this book and on the whole I wasn't disappointed. The story was well written and full of suspense. It was a book that I really couldn't put down and I would find myself reaching for it as soon as I came in from work. I found that I couldn't read it in bed because i) I would just carry on reading and then be like a zombie in front of the kids the next day (!) and ii) I found my mind was running over what I'd read, trying to work out what was going to happen next! I really like the cliff-hanger endings of lots of the chapters, although these meant that I could never put the book down!
There were a couple of disappointments with the book. The ending seemed quite abrupt and not that well explained. It was almost as if Mosse had lost steam by this stage. Also, there were some loose ends. The fact that Margarite hated the Domain de la Cade was clear from the story but the reasons for the hate were not fully explained. Also, the inclusion of Debussy was unnecessary. It provided a very tenuous link between 1891 and 2007 (Debussy was the Vernier's neighbour in Paris and then Meredith was writing about him). I have read that Mosse expected him to have a bigger role when she came up with the idea for the book but that he just didn't 'fit in'.
I enjoyed reading about the characters in this book and thought that they were quite well written. I actually cared about what happened to them and this indicates a good author to me. I also thought that the book was very well researched and Mosse provides some very good background information. This may not be to everyone's taste but as a historian it is important to me that authors get historical details right.
There were two characters in this book from Labyrinth. One is the Audric Baillard (who is central to Labyrinth and quite important here - although if you haven't read Labyrinth you may not understand the references made). The other is Shelagh O'Donnell, who is really a minor character in this book. It won't spoil your enjoyment if you don't know about these two from Labyrinth but it may help understanding.
At 544 pages its not a quick read but it is a page turner so it went quite fast!
AVAILABILITY AND PRICE:
As quite a major publication I would guess that this book will be available just about everywhere. I picked up my copy for half price in WHSmith. The cover price is £18.99 but it is currently on Amazon for £8.99 and the paperback can be pre-ordered for £6.59.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, I just wish the ending had been slightly better. The book was such a page turner I was expecting an explosive ending and it just didn't really come. I would definitely recommend this book but I think Labyrinth was much better.
(Please ignore audio book parts below!)