Monday, January 2, 2012

Review: Farewell, my Queen by Chantal Thomas

Farewell, my Queen by Chantal Thomas

Summary: A woman whose function it once was to read books aloud to Marie Antoinette is haunted by the memory of her last days at the French court of Versailles, when Louis XVI's magnificent palace succumbed to the irrepressible forces of revolution. Now exiled in Vienna, Madame Agathe-Sidonie Laborde looks back twenty-one years to the legendary opulence of Versailles and, overcome with nostalgia and remorse, discovers the full measure of her fascination with the Queen she served.
Madame Laborde takes the reader within the palace, meticulously reconstructing the 14th, 15th, and 16th of July 1789, feverish days when the servants have disappeared and many of the courtiers are fleeing. Versailles' miniature universe, sparkling with every outward appearance of happiness and beauty, is brilliantly juxtaposed with the chaos that erupts. We witness the unraveling of the palace's dawn-to-dusk ritual and the rising panic of the court as Versailles edges closer and closer to collapse. With the revolutionaries virtually at the gates of the palace, Madame Laborde herself flees the night of the 16th, escaping with members of the once-powerful de Polignac family.
Review: Just as I am a fan of all things Tudor, I am also a fan of all things Marie Antoinette. Unfortunately, this book was very disappointing.
That the this book was told from the point of view from the reader of Marie Antoinette is unusual. I do not think such a person would be the best to accurately represent events. I felt like the reader was a nonperson and was only there to convey the story even though the book is told from her point of view. Technically, this book is told from first person perspective, but on one occasion, the reader manages to know the thoughts in another character's head.
I did enjoy this book when it first started. I liked the contrast between the Revolution and what life was like in 1810 compared to the life of the Court before 1789. Despite the book having chapters that supposed to take place in certain years, there was a good bit of jumping around. The chapters that deal with the three days are broken into hours. There is a good amount of the reader just wandering around the castle and listening to conversations, which provides the background and plot for the story. The plot started to drag during the third day. I also never felt any sense of urgency or despair despite the events that were occurring. I skimmed the last 20 pages and I was glad when it ended.

Recommendation: I honestly wouldn't recommend this to book to anyone unless they are a huge fan of Marie Antoinette. 

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