The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Difficult to put out of my mind
Michelle Lovric has obviously put a huge effort into the research that she weaves into a carpet upon which the story can walk and play. This story is shocking, yet, in places, amusing. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that any reader would agree that the conclusions are satisfying.
This story is so cleverly written, and the publishers have helped the author to present a unique style. There are five, very different narrators. The author gives them their individual voices, and the publisher has added to the effect by giving each of them a different font.
The narrators include Minguillo Fasan, who suffers from persecution mania and spends his vengeful life making the lives of all those around him as miserable as possible. He is also a collector of books bound in human skin. Yes, it is true that these repulsive objects actually existed, and may still. His sister, Marcella, the second narrator, is consequently much persecuted, and is forced to leave what should be a comfortable, aristocratic life in Venice to eventually arrive in a convent in the Andes of Peru.
The third narrator is a self-made doctor, who makes skin his speciality, and perhaps his obsession. Amongst others, he has the questionable privilege of treating Napoleon Bonaparte, even through the infamous Russian campaign.
The fourth is Minguillo’s valet, Gianni, who is almost, but not quite, illiterate. That assumption costs his master dear, as his loyalties lie elsewhere. Who could ever be loyal to such a despicable character, anyway?
The final narrator is the craziest nun you could ever imagine. I won’t say much more about her, but you will discover for yourself just how crazy she is, before you have waded more than ten pages into this book.
The pace seemed to slow down a bit in the middle, which almost had me awarding a mere three stars, but I am so glad I persevered as it soon picked up again. By the time I closed the book, I was feeling a little harsh when I awarded four stars. However, I think that this is a genuine rating.
Read it for yourself, and I will look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.
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