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The Oracle Glass [Paperback]

Judith Merkle Riley
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Paperback, Feb. 2 1995 --  
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Book Description

Feb. 2 1995
A novel of decadence and sorcery in 17th century Paris based on a real scandal that reached all the way to the throne.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

From the author of In Pursuit of the Green Lion comes a novel set in 17th-century Paris and Versailles, tinged with the occult and a feminist sensibility. The younger daughter of a loveless marriage between a scholar and a woman of high breeding, Genevieve Pasquier appears to have few prospects, since she was born with a deformed leg. Taught Latin by her father, however, she has a keen intelligence that stands her in good stead when, after leaving home as a teenager, she is adopted by a wealthy fortune-teller as her protegee. Genevieve has the gift of seeing the future in water, a talent that Catherine Montvoison, a real-life figure who was both a seer and an undercover abortionist to the aristocracy, quickly exploits. Played out against the background of Louis XIV's court, the narrative offers ample glances into the lives of the nobility, as well as intrigue and a love triangle involving Genevieve, an outlaw and a society playwright. Unfortunately, the author's impressive knowledge of the time is offset by wooden characterization and predictable plotting, and her story never quite breaks the bounds of competent genre fiction. Toward the climax, scenes of torture, witch-hunts and executions will satisfy those who like their historical fiction laced with a touch of horror; for readers who enjoy an exotic setting with a celebrity slant, the novel offers an intriguing vacation read.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-Genevieve Pasquier is an educated, skinny, crooked-backed 15-year-old when her beloved father dies. After her uncle rapes her, she runs away, desiring only to end her pain by drowning herself. Instead, she is taken in by La Voisin, a wealthy fortune-teller, abortionist, and chemist who rules the seamier side of 17th-century Paris. La Voisin sets her up in her own business disguised as "Madame de Morville," an 150-year-old seeress who interprets images that appear in an oracle glass. This profitable venture throws young Genevieve into a world of court intrigue, political back-stabbing, demonology, and revenge, and she discovers that she enjoys the independence denied to most women of the time. When she is invited to the palace to read the waters for Louis XIV, she slides from favor and is suspected of participating in a poisoning ring. In a desperate race against time, she must rely on her own wits and on a man she loves to save herself. Mature YAs will relish her development from a weak and naive child to a witty and powerful woman who manipulates degenerate, superstitious Parisian society to her own advantage.
Susan R. Farber, Chappaqua Library, NY
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars original and moving Aug. 17 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Her voice is unique - combine a historian/philosopher with modern sensibility. How many writers have that ability?
She has created brave and gallant characters - enough to engage any reader of perception and interest.
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By A. Lord
Format:Paperback
Judith Merkle Riley is one of the best writerrs of historical fiction working today.
As an historian, I am always impressed by Riley's ability to recreate the feeling of a period. The Oracle Glass does a wonderful job of re-creating the world of seventeenth-century Paris where magic and science were uneasy bedfellows.

The story focuses on Genevieve, a young girl who pretends to be an aged crone (very aged---she admits to being well over a 100!). Genevieve works for the famed witch, Catherine Montvoisin but she is also a follower of the new philosophy (science).
Underneath the persona of an aged wise woman and fortune teller, Genevieve remains a young girl. And like all young girls, she is in love---first with a conceited fop and then, finally (!) with a man who is her intellectual equal and who loves her more than he loves himself.

This is the kind of book which you will love to read late at night (preferably a cold winter's night). There is a touch of the supernatural in the story---but it is Riley's mastry of the romance novel which really makes this book great reading for late at night!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fun read Aug. 15 2002
By Honey
Format:Paperback
One of the things I really like about Judith Merkle Riley's books is that she always puts in little details that add humor, make the setting come alive, or just make the characters more human. I'm not really into writing technically analytical reviews, I just mention what I like. I liked The Oracle Glass because the mixture of humor and court intrigue is engrossing. It's a good book to while away an afternoon with. The romance in this book is a little weak to me, partly because you can see how it's going to fall out. Also, you'll have a good idea of how it's going to end halfway through, but it's interesting and likeable enough to finish. It's not rocket science, but it's fun, with some good historical touches, and it made me want to do more research on the historic event that the novel is based on.
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4.0 out of 5 stars my review April 4 2002
Format:Paperback
This is the first book I have read from this author and I must say I did enjoy it. It brings to life an aspect of the life lived in the mid 1600's that has really never been presented so openly.
It is true that under King Louis XIV, the "Sun King", life was very hard for the common people, while at Court, life was extremely frivolous. But in this book it shows the extent people were willing to go to live in, and be accepted by, that Court.
Very interesting book full of detail and very lively characters.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Escapism for fantasy fans Dec 3 2001
Format:Paperback
Don't get me wrong, I don't think this is a bad book. For one thing, it has a great setting: what could be more fun than 17th century Paris mixed with witchcraft and court intrigue? The main character is believable and even intelligent. And the first half of the book is riveting, with a plot that moves along in curves and twists and keeps you coming back for more.
The problems start coming in about halfway through the book. The plot, which had been hurtling along at a brisk pace, grinds to a halt. The characters start to get into a fixed routine that rapidly becomes stale, and all the suspense evaporates. In fact, Genevieve predicts the ending of the book several times throughout the story, so there's no fear of her being killed or even emotionally hurt.
Emotional scenes need work--they have all the plausibility of a B-movie performance. I got the impression that the author has an intellectual understanding of such scenes, without a true grasp of the feeling behind them. As a result, romance is a crutch rather than a highlight of this book. The same holds true for some of the characters--they are intellectual constructs of a certain character type rather than psychologically complex people.
It's also a pity that the court intrigue, so often hyped in the first half of the book, is really not as complex and vivid as it could have been. Perhaps what really irked me about this book is that with such a great setting, the plot had enormous potential, but instead just peters out. It is worth reading to get a feel for the period, and it's fun in its way. I would recommend it to fantasy fans in need of pure escapism, with Riley as a sort of fantasy counterpart to Danielle Steel. If you come to it expecting to have fun and nothing more, you probably won't be disappointed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Transport yourself to 17th century Paris! April 23 2001
Format:Paperback
Author Riley does a magnificent job of recreating the life of a young girl in Paris during the reign of Louis XIV. Abandoned in her early years, Genevieve is finally brought home by her kind, scholarly father. Events bring about a change which force her to abandon her family in fear of her life and she is suddenly helped by the mysterious La Voisin. Well known throughout Paris as a fortune teller, La Voisin also has more pratical methods of helping her clients, such as poisons and back room abortions.
Blending fictional characters with historical characters, the author really evokes the time period and it is easy to imagine yourself living during this time. I did think the story was slow to start but after about fifty pages, moved much more quickly. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves good historical fiction.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Wacky Historical Fun
17th-century Paris is the setting for this tale of a 16-year-old girl who becomes the protege of the leading female occultist of the time. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2001 by A. Ross
4.0 out of 5 stars A great winter read
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I liked the heroine very much. The fact that she was not as gorgeous as her beautiful older sister made her seem a little easier to identify with... Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2001 by S. Remaley
5.0 out of 5 stars so good I bought it thrice
I first found this book in a used book store and bought it on a whim. I found the story to be engaging, the characters compelling and overall hard to put down. Read more
Published on Dec 11 2000 by Ragani A. Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all time favorites!
I borrowed The Oracle Glass from the library when I couldn't find any other books I had wanted to get. It turned out to be a really great decision! Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2000
2.0 out of 5 stars not impressed....
While the characters in this tome are compelling, I found the prose to be lacking in the depth and maturity necessary to sustain a story with as many facets as this one has. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars 5+ Stars: My favorite book!
This is the book I read after every semester in school, after vacation or when I have "Riley withdrawals." I had to include my review here, because it is so very good. Read more
Published on July 4 2000 by A. Y. Smittle
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable....
Transported me to a world far away, full of magic, sorrow, mystery, and period detail. The heroine was very young and the author kept us involved while she grew up and found her... Read more
Published on June 21 2000
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