Pretty horrible. I couldn't get past the first 30 pages. Self-indulgent writing that the writer believes is more interesting than it is. Don't care about the characters, don't care about the curiosities. Author tries to set up the book as if it's non-fiction, but is so overwrought in doing it that you don't believe it for a second -- you recognize it for what it is, a gimmick. Blech.
Fiction: Claude Page learns the arts of enameling and watchmaking from a defrocked Abbe in pre-revolution France, later inventing a talking mechanical head which eventually leads to tragic events. Slight wear, 358 pages.
The curiosities sealed in a battered old case, discovered at a Paris auction after more than two centuries, trace the adventures of Claude Page, a young man whose manual dexterity destines him to become one of 18thc France's most gifted inventors.
In the village of Tournay, ten year old Claude acquires the skills of a watchmaker and an enamelist under the tutelage of a lapsed Abbe. Four years later, violent events lead him to flee the Abbe's mansion house. He makes his way to Paris, where in desperation he apprentices himself to a dull, vindictive bookseller with a sideline in pornography. The arousing nature of this material spills over into Claude's after-hours pursuits: he becomes the lover of a wigmaker's wife. Liberated from the bookseller and aided by his friends-a taxidermist, a coachman, a hack writer, and a wet nurse-he constructs his greatest device, a masterpiece that proves to be his downfall, leading to an execution as tragic of that of Marie Antoinette, and one that is much more bizaarre. Filled with stuffed birds, erotic watches, impotence trials, imaginary beasts, and real decapitations, A Case of Curiosities displays the precision of a well-oiled watch. Ultimately, the story of an invention yields the invention of a story, one that effortlessly evokes the fabric of the past.
While it took a bit to get into the book, once I did it was an engaging read. The amount of detail the author provides in amazing - obviously an incredible amount of research went into the book, and his frequent use of the word "pedantic" (and its variants) could be used to describe the author. Overall an entertaining book.