Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
The title of New Zealander Chidgey's third novel (after The Strength of the Sun) refers both to a hairpiece and to the lives of the primary characters. Louis Goulet III, a French maker of hairpieces and other hair accessories in late 19th-century Tampa, FL, narrates most of the story. Given his role as perruquier, Goulet is a confidant of many but also someone who trades on the information he receives. His ongoing quest for new sources of human hair turns to obsession when he meets the beautiful young widow Marion Unger; their relationship leads to a bizarre entrapment at the novel's conclusion. While Chidgey's writing is evocative, there is sometimes too much symbolism. Furthermore, the pacing is lacking, and voluminous descriptions of wig and cigar making detract from the story. While Goulet is an interesting character, his voice repels rather than compels the reader. This book will interest large and regional collections for its evocations of Florida in its frontier days, but it is not generally recommended.-Caroline Hallsworth, City of Greater Sudbury, Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Swampy late?19th-century Tampa Bay is the unlikely romantic setting for this poignant historical novel by New Zealander Chidgey (The Strength of the Sun). Upon the construction of the Tampa Bay Hotel, a Byzantine fairy tale castle that soon attracts fashionable winter travelers, three eccentric American-made personalities descend on the town: a wig maker, a cigar factory worker and a Detroit widow. Marion Unger, a young Detroit wife, had arrived with her bricklayer husband, Jack, who helped build the hotel; he dies soon after its completion. In mourning, Marion finds her way to inimitable Parisian perruquier Lucien Goulet III, recently installed in the Tampa area to make his fortune; he weaves a memorial bracelet for her out of her hair and her late husband's, and becomes obsessed by her white-blonde tresses. Meanwhile, a Cuban immigrant teenager Rafael MEndez, employed as a roller in the local Ybor City cigar factory, is intent on aiding his country in the throes of revolution. When Rafael goes to work at night for the conniving Goulet picking through people's trash to search for hanks of hair he meets the chaste, rather naOve Marion and falls in love with her. A transformation is the sort of stupendous architectural hairpiece designed by M. Goulet, but here it also stands for the changes ushering in a motley new society. Incorporating her research with an organic touch, Chidgey constructs a tale as enchanting as the hotel rising from its Florida swamp. Agent, Kim Witherspoon. (May 6) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Whether called a peruke, a postiche, or a toupee, in the hands of wig-maker Lucien Goulet III, it's a transformation. A foundling who learned his trade in Paris (and left the body of his master, dead at his hands, behind), he's the sole year-round resident of the resplendent Tampa Bay Hotel in 1898. An unlikely trio forms: 15-year-old Cuban -cigar-maker Rafael Mendez, hired by Goulet to recover hair clippings, becomes smitten with Marion Unger, a young widow with white-blond hair with whom Goulet has become obsessed and for whom he wants to design the grandest transformation of all. Chidgey specializes in intertwining the lives of unlikely characters, as she did in The Strength of the Sun (2002), and it works to a point here. But the going is sometimes slow, and the close is a letdown. However, the historical details--notably about the hotel and its role in the Spanish-American War--add interest, as does the spiritualism practiced by a group of women that includes Marion (and, she learns, her late husband's lover). --Michele Leber Copyright 2005 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
A sinister French wigmaker plies his trade in late-19th-century Florida: New Zealander Chidgey's third outing (after The Strength of the Sun, 2002, etc.). Foundling Lucien Goulet learned his craft in Paris from a perruqier who took him on as an apprentice. Over time, Goulet's work excelled that of his master, who claimed it as his own--so Goulet murdered him and fled to America. Thus far the tale bears a striking resemblance to Patrick SÜskind's Perfume, which also featured a Parisian foundling with an extraordinary gift who progressed to murder; but Chidgey lacks SÜskind's ability to integrate the lore of a trade with a killer storyline. In 1895, after lying low for a year, Goulet establishes himself as a wigmaker at the spectacular Tampa Bay Hotel, setting for the climax. Parallel plotlines focus on Marion Unger, a young American widow with gorgeous white-blond hair, and Rafael MÉndez, a Cuban teenager and apprentice cigar-maker. It's hair, of course, that brings them together by maddeningly slow degrees. Marion commissions a commemorative hair bracelet from Goulet, who later hires Rafael to scour refuse for hair clippings. When Marion catches him going through her trash, it's not exactly meeting cute, but she's gracious, and Rafael develops a serious crush on her. Unfortunately, readers are constantly drawn away from this welcome romantic interest by Goulet's pronouncements on the hair business and the stupidity of women. When Marion asks for a "transformation," he's ecstatic; she means a few extra curls, but Goulet, exhibiting a carnal joy in hair of such delicacy, produces a massive wig, even kidnapping a little girl to harvest more white-blond hair. Marion rejects the wig. Will this fire up Goulet's killer instincts? In the event, the close is more farcical than deadly. Weighty with period research, but with little narrative payoff. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.