Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: Bluebeard by Valerie Ogden

Joan of Arc’s close companion on the battlefield, one of the wealthiest and most respected men in France, became a notorious serial killer, nicknamed Bluebeard, who performed bizarre sexual rituals, brutal mutilations and murders on hundreds of children. 
How could this happen to Baron Gilles de Rais, a Marshal of France, a renowned intellectual, a paragon of the high medieval prince, almost Renaissance in his talents an accomplishments? There is no clear explanation. There is only speculation. 

Yet historic evidence indicates strongly de Rais, a returning soldier, suffered from severe PTSD, which perhaps triggered his latent psychopathy. His extreme depravity, his shocking fall from grace and explosive end add fuel to the precept that the barbarity of war turned this celebrated hero into a monster.

Received for review.

I have to admit that my knowledge of the Bluebeard legend was a a bit sketchy before reading this but I knew the basic outline and that was enough to get me started as the book fleshed out the legend with the real life events.

While was a truly fascinating subject the writing left a bit to be desired.  More than a bit, actually.  It was unwieldy and downright impenetrable at points as is evidenced by this gem:  Only after the carnage in Gilles's territories increased significantly did the possibility of his culpability begin to be raised.  Folk started to notice that when a child vanished, the nobleman de Rais or his henchmen had frequently been skulking around.

The writing was so obnoxious as to take away any sort of enjoyment from reading the book.  It was really as if the author were trying to show just how smart she was by cramming every single SAT word possible into her writing.

As I limped through the book it became increasingly obvious that the author seemed to want the reader to sympathize with the psychopathic de Rais.  No, seriously.  She harps on the trauma of his youth and how he most likely developed PTSD after his time in the war and how that led to his killing hundreds of children.  I find this not only disgusting but really unforgivable on the author's part.  She writes about how he was such a brutal serial killer but then seems to forget his heinous acts and writes them off as trauma and PTSD.  It was just downright offensive that the author's view is really that it was okay that de Rais killed hundreds of people because he couldn't help himself due to his PTSD.  The author seems to think that we should take a kinder, gentler look at the killer and realize that he's just a wounded man who just happens to enjoy killing people in his spare time and nothing is his fault because of the trauma he endured.

While this is an interesting new look into the Bluebeard legend and the real life events that inspired it it is not really satisfying since it seems to be written as propaganda to show that de Rais couldn't help his behavior.  If you are interested in the real life events then this an interesting read if you can slog your way through.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

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