The story of Raphaelle, Vicomtesse de Miramande, is a ripping good chapter tale! If Elena Maria Vidal is anything at all, as an author, she is marvelously gifted as a yarn-spinning, bell-toned story teller. Ordinarily, I tend not to be a fan of the romanza, but I thoroughly enjoyed the pace and people of this story and will read it again. In fact the next time, I will read it aloud, for all good tales should be told in front of a leaping fire to as many ears as will listen.Share
In her previous books Trianon and Madame Royale, Elena Maria Vidal crafts her characters directly from the pages of history, giving voice and depth and potency of thought and action to a King and a Queen who left many of their own words behind for her to peruse as she unfolded vignettes of their story for us to become lost in for a time.
In this most recent offering from Elena Maria, The Night's Dark Shade, she draws the characters in the story directly from her own fulsome imagination, from a bit of regional travel perhaps, but primarily from her own experience of life and love, from universal truths and their consequences, from the vagaries of good and evil, invoking God and struggling with mankind as despair is overshadowed by hope. This is the real joy of the story. It is hopeful to its core. Not a saccharine unrealistic yearning, but a solid substantial expectation that in spite of the evils of the world, there is space in our lives for light and love and heart-felt laughter.
In order to find these spaces, however, one must climb through the flinty detritus of human weakness as the wicked are celebrated and the good are driven out to fend for themselves alone; children are left to starve, or murdered in the womb, while sexual excess, cruelty, and license are inconvenient, but expected and tolerated aspects of a totally corrupt humanity. In this abased darkness of human nature, true chivalry comes at the price of creature comforts, and true loves bloom as a false love lies dying.
The story is set in the wonderland of the French Pyrenees in Languedoc, south of the Dardogne, north of Gascony, and east of Hautes Pyrenees and Lourdes. The mountain passes are high and treacherous, with brooding monasteries perched among the peaks. The towns and villages huddle beneath massive fairy-tale fortresses and are graced by Romanesque cathedral churches built to match the forbidding face of the castle walls and buttresses. The call of eagles answer the cry of newborn lambs and the peoples are strong mountain folk, rugged but sometimes far too easily led astray.
The Night's Dark Shade is the story of a woman of the petite nobility of the region, who is bound, by inheritance and title, to the land and to the people. She is bound to a marriage of familial convenience and it is in the breaking of those bindings and the consequential disposition of her heart and soul that the story reaches its climax and unpredictable denouement. The pace is fast, the language formal but clipped and clear and as sharp as the cliff edges that frame the story. Thoroughly delightful change of time and place. Thoroughly recognizable to the contemporary heart.