Score! Iris Anthony's The Ruins of Lace is another random library find!
I had just seen the movie Les Misérables and the idea of historical fiction set in France appealed to me. Did you know that the wearing of lace was outlawed in 17th century France by the king, who thought people should be concentrating on more important things? Of course the ban had the opposite effect, and lace smuggling became big business.
This novel is about the trade in banned lace and is told from the points of view of several characters who are involved. It starts with Katharina, the Flemish peasant girl who is going blind from working in the lace factory, and also includes the people who smuggle it, and those who will do anything to get their hands on some. Anthony successfully weaves the disparate storylines together to a lovely conclusion (dare I say it, like the individual threads that form the lace design).
It was fun to read this having just seen Les Mis, even though I do know that Les Mis is set almost 200 years after the events of this novel. Still, I could easily imagine Katharina looking just like Anne Hathaway in her blue headdress toiling away with all the other female workers. And in case you thought Les Mis was just a downer, you should know that in this book Katharina fares better than Fantine did.
Becky Holmes blogs about books at A Book A Week.