The Treasure of Sainte Foy
by MacDonald Harris.
New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1980.
Also London, Victor Gollandz Ltd., 1980.
From the Jacket:
Like Graham Greene and Mary McCarthy before him, MacDonald Harris
has written a thriller. And like them, he brings to his
story the alchemical talent of a first-class novelist:
The Treasure of Sainte Foy is not only gripping, but
In the picturesque, isolated French village of Conques stands
the Abbey of Sainte Foy. The church houses a priceless medieval
treausre whose centerpiece is a magnificent, three-fot-high
statue of the holy martyr Sainte Foy, bejewelled and covered
with gold, its strange alabaster eyes gazing ahead as if at a
nearby invisible world.
To a small group of political terrorists in Toulouse, the
Treausre is an irresistible target. Working with them
is Patrick, a disaffected American art historian, who recruits into
the band Marie-Ange, the guide to the church. We see their
methodical preparations for the robbery, the growing attraction between
Patrick and Marie-Ange, the implacable pursuit of the police--all cool,
dramatic, and passionate as a Bogart film. But we also sense
the mysterious underworld of the Languedoc, a region of
heretics and saints, criminals and martyrs; the stakes of the
novel subtly change and ramify; we are caught up in
a gorgeous and mystical endgame as the forces of
retribution close in; we get the uncanny feeling that at play in the novel
are forces unseen and unseeable.
What is really at play, of course, is the masterful
hand of MacDonald Harris. A native Californian, Harris is best
known for The Balloonist, nominated for the National
Book Award and translated into half a dozen language,
and Pandora's Galley, his mesmerizing tale of the
last days of the Venetian Republic. (His five other novels
are Private Demons, Mortal Leap, Yukiko,
Bull Fire, and Trepleff).
In The Treasure of Sainte Foy, Harris has written a novel that is
spellbinding in every sense of the world.
Critical acclaim for The Treasure of Sainte Foy
- "I have read The Treasure of Sainte Foy with considerable
admiration. Harris is a real writer, and I
don't use that phrase except of someone who ought to be cherished and
encouraged. He has extreme exactness of language, a genuine sense
of place, and manages to say some interesting things about people.
This is a superior thriller."
C. P. Snow
- "The bare bones of Mr. Harris's unusual novel suggest nothing
of its strength, its thrust of character, its luminosity, its
wit and warmth, its creepy evocation of early Christian myth, its almost
The New Yorker
- "Most novels of suspense live up to expectations if they serve to
fill a few surplus hours late at night. MacDonald Harris's latest book,
however, is something special: a thriller written with rare craft, style, and
powers of observation."
Michael Gordon, L. A. Herald Examiner
- "Harris skillfully creates an undercurrent of mounting tension,
managing to grip the reader's attention through the closing scene.
His attention to detail is fascinating; so are his often witty insights
into human nature. It's the author's style that makes
The Treasure of Sainte Foy a pleasure to read.
Kathleen Brown, Lone Star Book Review
- "I enjoyed The Treasure of Sainte Foy. Harris
is very witty, skillful, and sophisticated; it is
a pleasure to become acquainted with his work."
- "A fine, dramatic book: minutiae presented so
meticulously, the prose so accurate, the camera held so
close, that the reader is filled with anxiety--something
dreadful is going to happen. Nor is one
disappointed--the novel is a real Day of the Jackal for
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