The Coral Thief, Rebecca Stott


The Coral Thief

Author: Rebecca Stott

First Edition: Spiegel & Grau, 2009 

This edition: Imprint, a division of Random House, 2010

Original language: English



From Amazon:

Paris, 1815. Napoleon has just surrendered at Waterloo and is on his way to the island of St. Helena to begin his exile. Meanwhile, Daniel Connor, a young medical student from Edinburgh, has just arrived in Paris to study anatomy at the Jardin des Plantes–only to realize that his letters of introduction and a gift of precious coral specimens, on which his tenure with the legendary Dr. Cuvier depends, have been stolen by the beautiful woman with whom he shared a stagecoach.

In the fervor and tumult of post revolutionary Paris, nothing is quite as it seems. In trying to recover his lost valuables, Daniel discovers that his beautiful adversary is in fact a philosopher-thief who lives in a shadowy world of outlaws and émigrés. Daniel’s fall into this underworld is also a flight, for as he falls in love with the mysterious coral thief and she draws him into an audacious plot that will leave him with a future very different from the one he has envisioned for himself, Daniel discovers a radical theory of evolution and mutability that irrevocably changes his conception of the world in which he lives.

The Coral Thief, as riveting and beautifully rendered as Ghostwalk, Rebecca Stott’s first novel,is a provocative and tantalizing mix of history, philosophy, and suspense. It conjures up vividly both the feats of Napoleon and the accomplishments of those working without fame or glory to change our ideas of who we are and the world in which we live.”



“She had seen the Red Sea coral spawn, she said.  When the sea reached the right temperature, when they are ripe, when the moon reaches a certain point, just once a year, down there on the coral reefs, the dark waters explode into white smokeclouds.  It’s like fireworks or seedheads opening, thousands and millions of them, released into the water all at once.  And when the coral spawn, all the other sea organisms follow.  It’s like a trigger. The fishermen say it’s the moon that makes them spawn, she had said, and I said: How can they see the moon?  They have no eyes.  Perhaps they have other ways of seeing and knowing, she had said.  Perhaps we all do.  There’s grandeur in that.”



I really did not like this book.  The characters were flat and one-dimensional, and you could not relate to them easily.  The only character that stood out was Delphine, the little girl, and that is because children only have to be cute to get a reader to like them.  The last page was the best part of the book.  The plot was weak and mundane.

The history and was interesting, and well-researched, but there was hardly any real or interesting information about corals, which are one of the main subjects in the book.  I was expecting something like The Orchid Thief, which was beautifully written and researched.  This book should not have been named The Coral Thief, because it invites a very unfavorable comparison with the Susan Orlean novel- which is far more worth a reader’s time.

This is what she should have talked about:


Coral (Photo credit: cogdogblog)

#306 whip coral "glass" goby (ガラスハゼ)

#306 whip coral “glass” goby (ガラスハゼ) (Photo credit: Nemo’s great uncle)

English: Anatomy of a coral polyp.

English: Anatomy of a coral polyp. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: alan slater 2003 dahab red sea Catego...

English: alan slater 2003 dahab red sea Category:Perciformes images (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coral 2

Coral 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pillar coral

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