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The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric
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The Book of Human Skin (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Michelle Lovric

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1952160,388 (3.61)32
Member:outside-jane
Title:The Book of Human Skin
Authors:Michelle Lovric
Info:Bloomsbury Paperbacks (2011), Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:2012, Your library
Rating:**
Tags:Venice, Italy, Peru, silver, nun, Catholicism, monster, villain, self-harm, sadism, cruelty, medicine, skin, books, library, binding

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The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric (2010)

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» See also 32 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
3.5/5

This is one of those books that I feel could have benefited had I been reading it by itself. Unfortunately for this particular work, I've had plenty of simultaneous reading experiences where each work held their own just fine in conjunction with their competition, so my penchant for multiple books is really not to blame.

Intriguing title, isn't it? Sensational, salacious, and easily backed up by the promise of the summary and the entirety of the book. The only problem, really, was the matter of the book buckling under its own weight of cast, plot, and historical trivia. I have to give credit for the incredible amount of research the writer put into the composition, but the fact remains that I paid increasingly more attention to the seams stitching this bulging form together as the story went on. A case of the construct posing more of an interest than the writing itself, unfortunately.

There was plenty of reason for interest. Five narrators, each with their carefully delineated traits and oftentimes cleverly put together vernacular, sailing along on a path spanning the revolts in Spanish controlled Peru to the Napoleonic invasion of Russia, strung together by reasons of love, atrocity, and skin. The setting was especially grand, ripe with cosmopolitan factual intrigue and an especial interest in conveying the more disgusting aspects of living in this age in as vividly visceral a manner as possible. However, not even this grand scale of things, or anything else for that matter, was enough to make up for the ultimate flatness of many of the characters, tugged as they were this way and that as an increasingly obvious excuse to display so much of the world that they lived in.

There was also the matter of the final thirty or so pages being devoted to historical notes, the sort of thing that usually guarantees my interest. Unfortunately, the author's choice in divulging her research resulted in less of a fascinated outlook and more of a disappointment with the man behind the curtain feeling, not at all helped by the several times the topics devolved into strains of commentary bordering on rants that did more to display the author's personal beliefs than keep me intrigued. Mind you, I adore digression, but not the sort that did more to highlight the weakness of the author's prose when not cloaked in vernacular pyrotechnics than anything else.

So, if you have an interest in late 18th to early 19th history spanning from Venice to Arequipa, the seedier side of convents, medical practices caked in blood and gore and pus, various explorations of poverty, the field of books bound in human skin, and don't mind if the people running through the plot are rather predictable, go for it. The fact that the end of the pages left me yawning over the lists of historical instances of literary pursuits intersecting with both dissectional and vivisectional practices may say more about me than the quality of the work. ( )
  Korrick | Sep 12, 2013 |
The typical story about very evil people trying to make other people's life difficult, this time set in the 19th century. However, the way the story is told makes it engaging and the historical background is well developed. ( )
  pablosuau | Jan 3, 2013 |
"A heart-stopping journey of innocence and resilliance struggling for survival against the kind of evil that makes Hannibal Lector look cuddly" This has been said by another reviewer of this book and I only can agree with this statement.

The story is set in the late 18th and early 19th Cetury alternating between Venice and Peru. The book is beautifully woven with 5 voices telling the story in the first person format, their stories come together in a fascinating, gruesome and at times even a very witty way. The characters are very well described and the whole story in general is executed in a very engaging and discriptive manner. The book starts with the words - "This is going to be a little uncomfortable".

The 5 voices are "Minguello Farsan" the son of a Venetian Noble who addresses us as "Dear beloved Reader" and similiar terms. "Marcella Farsan" his little sister who suffers in silence under his evil dominion in order to protect her friends . "Gianni" The valet of the noble house who tries to protect Marcella as best as he can. "Dr. Santos" a surgeon who crosses path with Marcella several times and also tries to protect her and lastly we have "Sor Loretta" a hysterical, fanatical and completely mad nun in a Peruvian Convent who does not display any of the Christian humility expected of a nun.

Minguello was the second child of the noble Venetian family and was born with some kind of malady which made him unwanted from the day he was born. By the time he was 4 years old he was already known and feared for his cruelty, sadistic streaks and the murder of his older sister Riva. Some years later his sister Marcella is born, who had to suffer from the beginning under his vile administrations. Dr Santos was an orphan who had a passion for skin disease and a knack for healing since he was a child. When he was still very young he fled the orphanage and was lucky to get apprenticed to a good field surgeon and they spent some time in the war camps of Napoleon. Santos and Marcella met the first time when she was still a child whilst she was treated by his master for a severe injury caused by Minguello. When Minguello is 12 he discovered Marcella to be a threat to his inheritance which condemed her to a series of horrible fates as a cripple, a madwoman and a nun. He also had from a very young age a passion for books.

"When I say that I loved books, I mean that I loved not just the souls of my books but their bodies. Even before I could read, I was a fanatic for bindings, affectioned to the intimate protection and adornment jointly embodied in their snug fittings. I adored the shapeliness and firmness of books"

Eventuelly Minguello came across a book bound in human skin which became soon another obsession for him. He viewed the skin as an organ of transportation and thought that it gave him the insight into the very soul of its host and he spend a lot of his money on these types of books. Nevertheless Marcella fought him with a quiet determination and with the help of her friends all the way. When she finally came as a nun to the Peruvian Convent, the administrations and the frightening behaviour of the mad nun Sor Loretta forced her after 3 years to take drastic meassures in order to survive. Sometimes I was not quite sure if the story of Sor Loretta or Minguello Farsan was more vile, as the book is very discriptive, however by the end of the book you just know for sure - You Do not like either of them -

This was a fabolous book and I found the different voices just added perfectly to the gruesome build up of the story. ( )
7 vote drachenbraut23 | Jun 26, 2012 |
This book is wonderfully evil and excruciatingly funny at the same time! Set in Venice in the 1700's it follows the fortunes or ill fortunes of the Fasan family. Minguillo is so evil it is hard to stomach his twisted thoughts and obsessions. Marcella his sainted sister, who Minguillo lives to torture and destroy. It takes the reader through every disgusting scheme that Minguillo thinks up to get rid of his sister, yet at it's heart it is a love story too. It is full of peculiar and wonderful characters along the way. A brilliant book in a very macabre way. If you liked The Brothers Gossbert you will enjoy this too. ( )
  Glorybe1 | Mar 26, 2012 |
The book follows Minguillo Fasan and his immediate family and staff as he tries to come to terms with his family not loving him. The fights he has to become instead respected as the future head of the family and how, by any means, he worked to take out anything and anyone who stood in his way.

After killing one sister to be the main child he then turns his attention to his younger sister Marcella. How can he stop her from encroaching on his territory and what happens when his father leaves on his long trips - is there a secret there which could stop the domination of his family and society which he so greatly seeks?

A good book to read you see how the world of Minguillo slowly cracks and disintegrates around him - while the rest of the world start to fight back. From the beginning the gruesomeness of the books he reads is a sub plot which you wonder how it is involved in the story. At the end it all comes together in a finale which is fitting for the storyline. ( )
  StuartAston | Feb 12, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Lovric’s dark tale of familial woe and colonial intrigue will imprint upon the Dear Reader’s skin in the way only a classic can.
 
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Vile and contemptible is the book which every body likes.
Thomas Spooner of Lemon Street
A Compendious Treatise of the Diseases of the Skin, from the Slightest Itching Humour in Particular Parts only, to the most Inveterate Itch, 1724
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I want to tell ye the story of Marcella Fasan, someone have got to do it.
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This is going to be a little uncomfortable.
'... the first thing that the Dearly Beloved Reader asks Himself when He opens a book, and lets a voice have at Him, is - 'Do I wish to go on a long walk in the dark with this person?'
page 7
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1784, Venice. Minguillo Fasan, heir to the decaying, gothic Palazzo Espagnol, is born. Yet he is no ordinary child, he is strange, devious, and all those who come near are fearful. Twelve years later, Minguillo, who has already contrived to lose one sibling, is listening to the birth-cries of his new sister Marcella, a threat to his inheritance. Minguillo's jealousy will condemn his sister to a series of fates as a cripple, a madwoman and a nun. But Marcella is not quite the soft target Minguillo imagines.… (more)

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