'The Poisoning Angel' - by Jean Teulé
I enjoyed one of those wonderful events recently; you know the one, when you pick up a random book in the library and it turns out to be truly amazing. The book in question was 'The Poisoning Angel' by Jean Teulé; a donated book, and the library was in Sandy. It was a risky move on my part; a translated foreign work. Always a worry because they so often don't translate. There have been so many I tried and did not finish.
Feeling brave, adventurous at picking it up, I opened the cover and...
I loved it from the off.
It reminded me of Patrick Süskind's 'Perfume', but unlike 'Perfume' 'The Poisoning Angel' is based on a true person; she being Hélène Jégado. A female famed for poisoning at least 36 people in France in the early nineteenth century, and I loved Jean Teulé's writing. I honestly couldn't put the book down.
It would (in my opinion) appeal to lovers of literary horror and magickal fantasy, given Teulé explores the Celtic beliefs of early 19th century France against the backdrop of the Catholic state; it being central to the budding character of Hélène. A callous killer, Death's own apprentice; a beautiful girl whose calling is murder. So I was shocked to see it score so low on Goodreads (averaging 3*). However, I think (reading through some reviews) that people forget Teulé is presenting a literary fiction based on fact, rather than it being a non-fiction narrative of one of the World's first recognised serial killers. A shame because I think they miss the point, and the artfulness of the piece, which is at once brilliant, ugly, and funny.
Highly recommend this as a literary read. Five stars from me, and that's a rarity!