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The Feast of All Saints by Anne Rice
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The Feast of All Saints (1979)

by Anne Rice

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First found this book in a small town library back in the early 80's. The book was originally published in 1979. Loved it! There are other great in depth reviews here so I won't try to summarize. But I have read it 3 times over the years. ( )
  zoomball | Jan 21, 2013 |
While rummaging around in one of the many flea markets I frequent this novel stood out among several hundred romance novels. I initially pushed the book to the side thinking it was just another Anne Rice vampire novel. For some reason I was drawn back to it. I picked it up, read the summary, and decided to give the cashier the dollar it cost. I am glad I gave this book a second look because it was one of those very rare, beautiful, and stunning novels.

This is a novel about the somewhat mysterious “gens de couleur libre” -the Free People of Color-set in New Orleans around the 1840s. The “gens de couleur” are the descendants of the African and the French but they embrace the latter. These are privileged families whose primary language is French and most speak very little English. The women possess a certain class and grace that cannot be taught it is simply bred into the very fabric of their being. The men are true gentleman who are determined to preserve their community and way of life. These are beautiful people. Their stories are very complicated and tragic. Their world is one made of glass that is eventually shattered.

The novel is focused on the Ste. Marie family. This family consists of the mother Cecile, a patriarch Phillippe Ferronaire, and their children Marcel and Marie. Phillippe Ferronaire is white and married with a family that lives on his plantation, Bontemps. Marcel has his father’s blue eyes and blonde hair but coarseness of that blonde hair keeps him from “passing”. Marie is the stunning beauty whose white skin betrays most. Marcel is our lovely protagonist whose life revolves around traveling to Paris when he turns eighteen and the arrival of a new teacher, Christophe. Christophe left the close knit “gens de couleur” community and traveled to Paris and made a name for himself as a writer. Christophe and Marcel start a unique instant friendship that transcended teacher and pupil. This friendship proves to be an anchor to them both in the perilous times that arise quite quickly.

As we read it seems as if Marcel’s life of privilege dealt him a short hand in preparing him to be a man. He is prepared to be a gentleman but not a man. With a father that is mostly absent, Marcel is left to his own random ideas of how his life should be. Marcel is faced with some hard decisions when his father’s constant supply of money is stopped abruptly and his dreams to go to Paris are lost forever. While everyone is consumed with Marcel, Marie goes unnoticed especially by Cecile. Even though Marie is a head turning beauty she has a wounded soul. She is torn between pleasing her ever persistent aunts by attending the quadroon balls to attract a rich white suitor, as her mother did, or marry the black man she loves, Richard Lermontant who happens to be Marcel’s best friend.

The lives of the characters of this novel are intertwined very intricately. I just want to describe a few. There was Dolly Rose, the beautiful yet self destructive quadroon beauty who had to bury her only child at such a young age and later establishes a brothel. The Lermontant’s are the wealthy free black family who bury the dead white and black. Juliet, Christopher’s mother, who was both eccentric and illiterate, took the teenage Marcel as a lover. Lisette, the mulatto house slave of the Ste. Marie’s, who allowed the broken promises of freedom and jealousy lead her to a tragic end. Then there was also the precious, Anna Bella, Marcel’s closest friend whose unconditional love for him proved to be her main obstacle. The main contributors to this way of life and bloodline were the white men that maintained separate black families for their own selfish benefit but never paid much attention to the long term effects of such selfishness. The lifestyle of the “gens de couleur” was a character as well as the city of New Orleans. I can’t say enough about how captivatingly beautiful this story was even with all the flawed yet beautiful people that brought it to life. ( )
1 vote pinkcrayon99 | Apr 30, 2012 |
An engaging historical novel about the Free People of Colour living in New Orleans before the Civil War. This novel differs from Rice's well known vampire tales and instead tells the story of a mulatto family navigating the freedoms and boundaries of a black and white world of which they are on the out skirts.
  LBarrett87 | Apr 15, 2012 |
This was one of them most intriguing and historical novels I've read by Anne Rice. I've learned more about history from this book than most of her other books. Again, her writing is beautiful to read and again, her characters are absolutely believable.

Basically, the book is about free African Americans before the civil war. Their struggles and freedoms of living in between the rungs of a social ladder of Caucasians and slaves. Very enlightening book, in deed.
  Aerow | Aug 15, 2011 |
I was looking at all my Anne Rice books and I noticed one of them didn't look like it had been read. My best guess as to why I hadn't read 'The Feast of All Saints' when I bought it is most likely because of the very small and heavy font.

Anyway, years after purchasing it, I have finished reading this book which was quite different to her vampire series. The novel has a familiar setting in New Orleans, however there are no vampires or supernatural themes in the story. Set in the French Quarter in the 1840s the novel is about the gens de couleur libre the free people of colour, neither black nor white, and living in a city with slave markets and black servants.

This was a real eye opener into the times and challenges faced by the gens de couleur, and the struggles they faced. The main character is Marcel, although the reader is treated to an in depth analysis of several 'sub characters' and much family drama is covered in the book.

I was surprised by some of the themes and it really made me think. How could women of colour look down upon women who married other men of colour for love? Instead it was expected that young women of colour would strive to be the mistress (second wife) of a white plantation owner who would only visit the city every few months. Essentially this meant knowingly being the wife/mother of a second and secret family. Unbelievable.

There is a lot of family drama, questions of lineage, family traditions, society expectations and when it's okay to break the rules.

To be honest I struggled during the first 100 pages (there are 636 pgs in total), however the story really picked up after that and I was hooked. It was such a treat to read an earlier work of Anne Rice (one of my favourite authors), as I'm hanging out for her new book. ( )
  Carpe_Librum | Nov 30, 2010 |
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This book is dedicated with love to Stan Rice, Carolyn Doty, and my parents, Howard and Katherine O'Brien.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345376048, Paperback)

Before the Civil War, there lived in Louisiana, people unique in Southern history. For though they were descended from African slaves, they were also descended from the French and Spanish who enslaved them. In this dazzling historical novel, Anne Rice chronicles four of these so-called Free People of Color--men and women caught periolously between the worlds of master and slave, privilege and oppression, passion and pain.
"Anne Rice seems to be at home everywhere....She makes us believe everything she sees."
THE NEW YORK TIMES

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:11 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Set in nineteenth-century New Orleans, the story depicts the Free People of Color, a dazzling yet damned class caught between the worlds of white privilege and Black oppression.

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