Customer comments on this Youngstown Ohio Book
Factory of Cunning
An epistolary novel that offers a "sequel" to Les liaisons dangereuses.
I found Factory clever, often devastatingly funny, wonderfully differentiated in its voices and considerable in its tension -- the latter two qualities being difficult to achieve in epistolary novels. Some of the plot elements -- Violet's experiences and the long-lost sister -- are well-worn, but the manner of telling is so fresh that it doesn't really matter. "Mrs. Fox", unrepentantly awful and cheerfully unsinkable, is a gem.
I think some readers will have trouble following the plotline, especially in the beginning, and the quick-spoken, intricate period diction, particularly in Mrs. Fox's voice, may lose some, but the book rewards close attention. It would appeal to readers who enjoyed books like SLAMMERKIN and THE DRESS LODGER, but its tone is far more arch.
Promising at the start ...
First, one of the reviewers says that this novel is set during the era of Charles III. It's actually set during the Georgian era (1784 making it during the time of George III), one of the most interesting periods of history for historical writing, I think.
This epistolary novel is a continuation of Dangerous Liaisons. It's a good attempt, but I wasn't thrilled with it. Basically, it centers around the plot of what might have happened if the Marquise had escaped France and made it to England to wreak whatever havoc she might wreak there, while also helping a friend destroy a villainous earl.
The characters in the novel are very well-written: Mrs. Fox is very sharp-witted and clever, Lord Danceacre and his friends are funny and entertaining, and Violet is by turns hilarious and ridiculously stupid. Stockley also manages to give her writing that witty spark that is so necessary in novels centering around a clever, selfish woman. The plot itself is also tightly woven, bringing seemingly random occurrences and people together in the end, as all novels of this type should do.
Something, though, just never seemed to click for me. Maybe it was because there was not even one character with whom a reader could really sympathize. Or, more likely, perhaps it was that the supposed villain of the plot was hardly ever in the novel, except to be described by other people. Set up as someone who would finally match wits with the marquise, I was disappointed by the lack of interaction and repartee between the two. Considering all the dire warnings about the earl's vengeful and almost satanic nature, he was a bit of an anticlimax to me.
However, the book was an enjoyable read, and definitely conveyed the mood of the times. Stockley clearly has a sharp wit, and it comes out in her portrayal of several characters. For that, it's worth reading, though perhaps it's better to get it from the library or borrow from a friend than to purchase it yourself.
Could've Been Better
Firstly, it appears that most readers are familiar with Les Liaison Dangereux and have indicated that this book "echoes" the aforementioned. However, what it seems Phillippa Stockley has actually done is taken the story of "Dangerous Liaisons" where it left off and proceeded forward with all previous characters referenced. This would make for a seemingly excellent opportunity for a good story. Though rather well written linguistically and in an interesting attempt at unravelling the story via letters from one character to another, the reader can't help but fall into several pitfalls.
To Begin, there really are too many characters in this story who, with some, remain very undeveloped leaving the reader wondering why. Additionally, it almost seems that Stockley's Mrs. Fox forgets her original focus to destroy the Earl Much in a sudden new direction of interest via the character Violet's story of seduced debauchery. As for the Earl, he's supposedly a violent and malevolent person who we could compare to the Viscount in "Dangerous Liaisons". However, his character's supposed evil never truly comes across because his only letters are those which show a "gentleman". It would've been far more impressive and convincing to have the Earl writing letters involving his own twisted plots. Regarding all letters concerned, too often Stockley attempts to paint the story in a communication format between parties that would not make sense in true letter writing. Finally, the ending of the book is a disappointment. It's almost like a Hollywood story of the supernatural stepping far outside the bounds of the original setting.
If a reader is interested in a book that's interesting and fun, then this book will work. If you're looking for something that would be regarded at literature, this book does not fall in that category.