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"The Feast of All Saints" is a 1979 novel by Anne Rice, and is one of her two novels without supernatural or genre elements. It was also only the second novel she published, after 1976's Interview with the Vampire. Like much of her fiction, this book is set in New Orleans, in the period before the Civil War.

The book is a historical novel, examining the lives of the "Gens de couleur libre", or "Free people of color", French speaking mulattos, descended from plantation owners and slaves in the Caribbean. In French society, they were free, if of a lower status, but in the slave-owning American south, their social status is in rapid jeopardy of being eroded away. As a historical set-up, this could be fascinating, and despite some possible complaints about a white writer's possible problematic take on the issue, it is an era of history that needs to be explored.

The problem is, that for me, this book was boring and pointless. I say this as someone who has dealt with some of Anne Rice's less-acclaimed works, and found them tolerable. But this book is 600 pages of dialogue and events that seem to go nowhere, some of which are forgotten half-way through. The main characters of the book are Marcel, a light-skinned, blue eyed youth, and his beautiful sister Marie. Marcel meets Christopher, a worldly man who lived in Paris, and is gay, and then Marcel also has sex with Christopher's mother, and Richard, Marcel's friend whose father is an undertaker, falls in love with Marie. Also, there is Annabella, who...um, I can't remember much about her. These characters mostly converse and interact through speeches, the type of dramatic speeches that make some sense when they are put into the mouths of vampires, but sound stilted and forced in a historic novel. Characterization and plot threads are brought up and then forgotten: a good deal is made of how Christopher has returned from Paris to teach the free people of color, and how brilliant he is, but his intelligence is mostly conveyed through a few references to stock cultural items, not through any original thinking.

I could mention more examples of why this book didn't work for me, but in general I think it shows why Anne Rice did better when she had the supernatural: a single compelling narrative of something outside of the commonplace world is something that can hook a reader's attention, while this book seems to meander with no central theme. There are some good descriptions and historical information, and it almost would have been better as a much shorter non-fiction book than a long, soap-opera style novel.

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