Holy Fools by Joanne Harris
There's something about the France that it draws Joanne Harris to set her novels in the Gallic countryside. Be it her debut offering, the delicious Chocolat, or this one - Holy Fools - the setting for her magical tales is perfect. This time it's the Abbey Saint Marie de la mer in a tiny island off the Brittany coast during the 1600s. The story unfolds as the old Abbess dies and a new one takes over, bringing with her reforms that unsettle this peaceful groups of nuns which includes a former gypsy acrobat Juliette now called Soeur Auguste. The new Abbess, a mere wisp of a 12-year old girl is coached and guided by a Father Colombin who is none but Le Merle, the man who was the head of Juliette's travelling circus troupe, her occasional lover and the man who abandoned them to save his own skin in a crisis.
Gradually, Father Colombin leads the nuns to believe that they are in the grasp of demons and whips up a frenzy in order to get his back at the Bishop who once humiliated him. Juliette stays back, partly to reclaim her own daughter Fleur who has been taken away and partly because she feels compelled to protect the nuns from the Father's sinister plans. The novel makes you realise how religion in the wrong hands is a dangerous tool. And how easily its powers can be abused. A wonderfully sumptous read which gives great satisfaction, much like a carefully planned feast.