Sadistic nuns, scatology, butchered animals, monk-ish rapists, and Satan: first-novelist Ducornet tosses these familiar dark-gothic elements around in a stylish but dankly heavy-handed tale--mildly surreal, faintly black-comic--of 1880s rural France. The girl-victim here is Charlotte, born with a hare-shaped, furry birthmark on her face as her mother dies in grisly labor. Charlotte is raised by her sweetly addled uncle and her puritanical great-aunt, who never forgets the evil Lust of Charlotte's dead mother (who ran off to mate with a drunken, carnal hunter)--and who calls on the local village Exorcist to remove the ""stain"" somehow. (""For did not the hare symbolize the Devil, the licentious moon and the female pudenda?"") Exorcism attempts fail, however; Charlotte goes to a dreadful convent school, where the Mother Superior falls under the sway of the lecherous, loony Exorcist. (She asks her crucifix: ""Should I fornicate?"") Flagellation and rapes ensue, with poor Charlotte mistreated and branded as a madwoman. . . until the Exorcist eventually is exposed and punished, with help from a rescuer named Archange. Belabored themes (religious hypocrisy, sexual repression) and overdone grotesquerie for the most part--but Ducornet, author/illustrator of some impressive children's books, displays distinct page-by-page talents (vivid imagery and invention) along the lines of Angela Carter.