Friday, October 13, 2017

The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack

Fans of M.J. Rose, Kate Mosse, and Katherine Neville have, no doubt, already discovered Gwendolyn Womack with her first novel, The Memory Painter. If you haven't, you'd better get busy and start reading.

This was one of those novels that I bought, added to my stacks at home, and forgot about for a few months.  When I finally plucked it out of a stack to read for October, I spent plenty of time congratulating myself for being smart enough to buy it and finally read it. It's exactly the kind of historical/magical/thriller/toss-in-just-a-wee-bit-of-romance novel that I relish reading. 

Two stories in one that eventually blend together.  Semele Cavnow is an expert at appraising antiquities for a very exclusive auction house in New York City.  She's sent to Geneva to appraise a rare private collection of ancient texts and manuscripts, and finds one written in Greek that is hidden from the rest of the collection.  Slowly translating it, she is a bit startled when it appears to be a written by a famous seer who was the daughter of a librarian at the great library in Alexandria. Odder still, this seer addresses Semele by name, and proceeds to foretell many big world events that won't come to pass for thousands of years, long after the seer is gone.  Semele is warned that there are people who want the manuscript.  Returning to New York with the manuscript and a digital copy (smart lady digitizes the whole manuscript and saves it to her laptop), she's aware that a man is following her, and her boss decides she will be removed from the project and sent to Beijing instead--with no explanation. Furious, Semele keeps translating the text, and learning all about the long line of women who have shared the gift of foretelling, vision, and reading a tarot deck that if found, would fetch an extremely high price. She's in danger, and forces are beginning to draw a net around her. 

I quickly became fascinated by the story about the extraordinary women who each sacrificed themselves to keep the tarot deck in safe hands, and to pass it onto the next generation.  A long, unbroken line that travels from ancient Alexandria, to Iraq, Greece, England, France, Germany, and eventually America.  But how does Semele fit into all of this?  That's part of the story.  Not only has she found out recently that she's adopted, but she is having flashes of the future, and senses that something bigger than herself is at play. 

I loved this novel!  It was all I could do to be a productive member of society last week, because all I wanted to do was sit and read it.  The end was truly not at all what I expected, but I thought the author's ability to wrap it all up, bring all that storyline together into one place, was masterful.  It answered a lot of questions.  Not only did I love the references to the great library of Alexandria, but all the reverence given to libraries, librarians as protectors of knowledge, and the awareness that we have always valued books, libraries, and those who make seeking and protecting knowledge their life's work. Our ties to the past are many and sometimes we forget that.  

Oh, I hope you read this and let me know what you think of it.  I'm a huge fan of Ms. Womack and have added her to my list of new favorite authors.  

Rating:  4/6 for an inventive novel about ancestors, an ancient tarot deck, libraries, and finding out our connections to the past.  Just enough romance, but not too much; good to read about a smart, capable woman who is an expert in a field that is usually dominated by men. 

Available in paperback and ebook. 

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