Sepulchre is a historical fiction novel by British author Kate Mosse. Published in 2007, it tells the story of two women living in France 90 years apart who are brought together by a mysterious church in the Pyrenees mountains. The novel jumps back and forth between the stories of 1891 and 2007.
|October 31, 2007
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In 1891, young Léonie Vernier and her brother Anatole travel to Rennes-les-Bains to stay with their aunt. Léonie, who has the ability to sense spirits, is immediately drawn to the old sepulchre church up in the mountains. Inside, she finds an ancient tarot card of a man hanging from a tree. Meanwhile, in 2007, Meredith Martin travels to the same town to attend a music festival and work on her dissertation about the composer Claude Debussy. There, she also feels compelled to visit the sepulchre church, where she finds a tarot card depicting a woman holding a bird in a cage.
As the narrative switches between Léonie and Meredith’s stories, they both become obsessed with discovering the mysteries of the church and tarot cards, which seem connected to an ancient secret society called the Sepulchre. The church holds the key to a 700-year-old legend about a young girl and a forbidden love affair that ended in tragedy. Léonie and Meredith work feverishly to unravel the truth behind the myth and the tarot cards before other forces can stop them.
Overall, I found Sepulchre to be an entertaining read, but not Mosse’s strongest novel. The premise is interesting – a dual narrative tied together by a mysterious church and ancient legend. The Gothic setting in the Pyrenees mountains provides an evocative backdrop for the story. However, the execution left something to be desired.
The pacing of the novel feels uneven. The 1891 narrative drags in many parts, while the 2007 story rushes by too quickly. I wanted more time with Meredith in contemporary France, whereas Léonie’s story could have been tightened up. The ending also felt rushed, with revelations crammed into the final chapters.
Additionally, the characters are not Mosse’s most compelling creations. Léonie and Meredith are rather one-dimensional. Léonie is naive and overly superstitious, while Meredith is obsessive about her research. The motivations driving them get repetitive as the novel goes on. The supporting characters, like Anatole and Léonie’s aunt, never come into clear focus.
The mystery at the heart of Sepulchre simply wasn’t intriguing enough to sustain my interest through all 500+ pages. The secrets of the sepulchre church and tarot cards are teased out painfully slowly. While the eventual reveals about the legend and secret society are interesting, they took too long to uncover. I wish the pacing had moved quicker towards these central revelations.
On the positive side, Mosse does transport readers to 19th century rural France vividly. Her prose shines most in descriptive passages about the landscapes and town. She brings the time period alive through sensory details about the customs, food, and regional dialects. The dual narrative allows readers to experience both time periods firsthand.
Overall, I finished Sepulchre feeling underwhelmed. The story had potential, but the pacing issues, one-dimensional characters and slowly unraveling mystery created an uneven reading experience. While the setting and prose are strong points, the novel drags more often than it intrigues. Diehard Mosse fans may appreciate Sepulchre, but readers new to her work would be better off starting with Labyrinth or The Taxidermist’s Daughter. For me, Sepulchre ranks among Mosse’s weaker efforts compared to her later novels. I wanted more momentum in the narratives and higher stakes in the central mystery. This one ended up feeling like more of a slog than a suspenseful page-turner in the end.