by Eleanor Updale
I liked the many layers of this story, as Montmorency goes from a hardened criminal to a more educated and cultured individual. He wrestles with ideas of honor and honesty, and reads books to expand his knowledge and manners. His character development is gradual and believable with a satisfying conclusion. It’s as though, while he is cleaning up from roaming the sewers, his mind also starts to clean up and his ideas change, throwing off the old ugly ideas like the dirt getting scrubbed off his soul. The imagery is wonderfully subtle.
Because the whole premise of the story is the use of the sewers as escape routes during criminal enterprises, there is a lot of talk about poop and smelly sewage. Gross to read about, but definitely effective story-telling.
There were several supporting characters that I really liked, and they added depth to the story in various ways. There is the former cellmate who gets into trouble again with the law. The doctor who treated Montmorency’s wounds and operated on him while he was in prison. The friendly tailor who helps Montmorency know what correct clothing to wear to the opera. They are all memorable and interesting, with their own voice in the story.
But there was one supporting character that made no sense to me at all. A woman has a crush on Montmorency, and is always trying to get his attention in flirty ways. I think she was included for comic relief, but she isn’t funny, she’s just disgusting. She always has food spills and crumbs on her clothing. Her hair and makeup are gaudy, and she pretends to have a cutesy lisp when she talks. She did not further the story very much, with a minimal role in the plot, but so much time is spent describing her and her pathetic attempts to flirt with Montmorency. It didn’t fit with the rest of the story and it annoyed me.
I enjoyed the writing style and the plot kept me engaged. This is an entertaining book, and I’m glad that I read it!