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Eva, a teacher whose mother was born in Prague, Czech Republic, is the owner of a ring made of the semi-precious stone Moldavite, which is reputed to have special properties. What is the connection between Eva and a barber turned alchemist who lived in Prague in the 17th century?
Moldavite spans a number of fiction genres. It is at mysterious, satirical and spiritual. The book opens with the legend of a barber of Prague who abandoned his wife and daughters in the 17th century to pursue a career as an alchemist. His wife and daughters met with terrible fates through being abandoned and the ghost of the barber-alchemist still haunts the street in the Old Town where he once lived.
From chapter two onwards we are swept into a rather bizarre version of the present day, as Eva, the main character of the novel and a teacher, grapples with the lunacies of modern institutionalized education. There is a running commentary by her quirky but wise mother, who was born in Prague. A Moldavite ring crops up from time to time in the story, as Eva increasingly moves between two worlds in search of her sanity and identity.
A number of cameo characters from her working life come and go as all sense of proportion are lost at school. These characters include Eva's teenage son, Rusty.
As Book One draws to a close, the disparate threads of the plot are drawn together and revealed to have a common origin and meaning. Book Two introduces some new characters and places, including Monaco and Tuscany, Italy.
A large free sample of the book is available at
Ten minutes into her double lesson, by now in a lather of sweat, with a fresh ladder in her tights and a faint smell of damp sheep rising from her rain-sodden Merino wool twinset, Eva emerged from the cloister to find another downpour unleashing itself on to the cobblestones. Ruined hairdo braced downwards to ward off the elements, the Hebrews clutched to her ample bosom, Eva started her third dash across the courtyard, almost running blind into the arms of a camel-coated stranger, who looked distinguished, grizzled and confused.
"Question!" he hailed, with raised right arm, across an invisible sea of wealth and privilege that apparently rendered complete sentences superfluous when talking to damp teachers and other social inferiors. This utterance was enough to startle the forces of physical motion into bringing Eva's forging body to an ungainly halt, at the very moment her mind was deciding that she did not even remotely have time to stop, and equally that she did not at all like this Morse-code-like form of address. She turned her face upwards and sideways, both towards the elements and in the direction of the immaculate camel coat, blurred on the other side of her rain-spattered glasses. A sense of detached, clinical wonder overcame her for an instant at the way an otherwise rational, sensible adult can be trained to obedience like a dog, with a single authoritative syllable from a well-heeled stranger. She also found herself wondering how it was neurologically possible for the body to obey ahead of the mind's decision not to.
"Can I help you?" she heard herself asking, her mind now decorously falling over the precipice that divides normal workaday tension from the silent hysteria of impending burnout, as she pictured the group that should by now have long been intent on the Letter to the Hebrews descending into irretrievable acts of classroom decadence.
Moldavite by Charlotte Butler
Review on Amazon.co.uk by Charlotte Butler:
At times hilariously funny, at times profoundly thought-provoking, "Moldavite" is a quest for self-identity, enacted through its main characters, Eva, Svetlana and Cole. It provides a brilliantly satirical insight into the effects of institutionalised education on human nature, delves into esoteric and arcane learning, and above all, raises spiritual and moral issues of relevance to contemporary society. While apparently easy, entertaining reading, "Moldavite" has the capacity both to challenge and to educate.
Moldavite is a gemstone with extraterrestrial origins and, so it seems many of Eva's work colleagues were from another planet. Join Eva on her search for her own identity, sanity and who knows what! A literary gem where human intrigue and hilarity shine through.
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