The Coral Thief
By Rebecca Stott
(Spiegel & Grau, Hardcover, 9780385531467, 304pp.)
Publication Date: September 15, 2009
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Paris, 1815. Napoleon has just surrendered at Waterloo and is on his way to the island of St. Helena to begin his exile. Meanwhile, Daniel Connor, a young medical student from Edinburgh, has just arrived in Paris to study anatomy at the Jardin des Plantes–only to realize that his letters of introduction and a gift of precious coral specimens, on which his tenure with the legendary Dr. Cuvier depends, have been stolen by the beautiful woman with whom he shared a stagecoach.
In the fervor and tumult of post revolutionary Paris, nothing is quite as it seems. In trying to recover his lost valuables, Daniel discovers that his beautiful adversary is in fact a philosopher-thief who lives in a shadowy world of outlaws and émigrés. Daniel’s fall into this underworld is also a flight, for as he falls in love with the mysterious coral thief and she draws him into an audacious plot that will leave him with a future very different from the one he has envisioned for himself, Daniel discovers a radical theory of evolution and mutability that irrevocably changes his conception of the world in which he lives.
The Coral Thief, as riveting and beautifully rendered as Ghostwalk, Rebecca Stott’s first novel, is a provocative and tantalizing mix of history, philosophy, and suspense. It conjures up vividly both the feats of Napoleon and the accomplishments of those working without fame or glory to change our ideas of who we are and the world in which we live.
Rebecca Stott is a professor of English literature and creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. She is the author of the novels The Coral Thief and Ghostwalk and a biography, Darwin and the Barnacle, and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio. She lives in Cambridge, England.
“A powerful offering from an immensely talented writer…Vividly atmospheric, propulsive, and intricately plotted, this is a surefire page turner with literary heft and wide appeal.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Stott again skillfully combines an intriguing love story, complex scientific concepts, and a beautifully realized historical setting…Riveting on all fronts, from its suspenseful plot to its elegant presentation of evolutionary theory.”–Booklist, starred review
“Stott once again juxtaposes science with a tale of love, mystery and intrigue, setting this volatile mix against a backdrop of critical events in post-Revolutionary France… Skillfully embeds early 19th-century culture, history, and attitudes into a story that flows like the Seine and floods the senses.”–Kirkus Reviews, starred review