If you want a glorious novel to read in which you’ll be swept away to the 18th century for the weekend, then Sally Christie’s The Rivals of Versailles is perfect to quench your desire for a french delicacy in the form of words on paper.
This is the second book in her The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy, but you don’t have to have read the first book if you’d like to pick up this one. I’d bet you’ll want to go back and read it though, and then the third book next year, because you’ll love her writing. She’s that good.
Christie’s writes as is for the stage, which is really what life was like in the French courts I suppose. It’s an experience, her descriptions, her formation of sentences, the letters she intersperses at ends of chapters, and the way she sections the book into acts and employs the voices of the other characters in a seamless fashion.
Like a perfectly fitted dress, Christie writes as if the book is only for each of us (I’m selfish!) and forms around us as if we are given a peek from behind the curtain. Being captivated from the first page, her flowing prose pulled me chapter to chapter, her details dripping, her dialogue exquisite, and her character developmental multi-dimensional.
As a mistress position with Louis XVI is open at court, in sweeps Jeanne Antoinette Poisson. Louis has many mistresses and many women vying for his attention, which he doesn’t mind as he loves beauty and pleasure, but soon she is easy to love for him, as well as being highly intelligent. She learns quickly as well how to make him happy by giving him his desires while fighting off her rival mistresses. Christie makes this situation all the more real by giving them first person point of view voices. This might be unheard of and very difficult for most authors to pull off without feeling contrived, but Christie is such a gifted writer that she makes it not only plausible but deliciously authentic.
As Jeanne become more revered by Louis, and bestowed as Madame Pompadour, she gains more influence with him and accomplishes being able to reign as a queen and is admired by many. She had relationships with many well-known people in the arts and advocated for them. She will be remembered in history for her many accomplishments as a woman and Christie has outlined them for us marvelously, but in addition, has given us a glimpse of the true woman who maneuvered with precision the intrigue and dynamics at court and of the affections of Louis while still making an impact on society.
The novel is so intricately detailed and woven in a dynamic way that will demand a reader’s attention, I know it did mine. I highly recommend this novel (and series) for any historical fiction or french-anything lover, that’s a given, but I truly think a novel this well-written would be enjoyed by anyone looking for a step back in time, an absorbing read, or for it’s value of showcasing yet another strong woman in history.
Come back tomorrow for an interview with Sally Christie!
The Rivals of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #2)
by Sally Christie
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
eBook & Paperback; 448 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
And you thought sisters were a thing to fear! In this compelling follow-up to Sally Christie’s clever and absorbing debut, we meet none other than the Marquise de Pompadour, one of the greatest beauties of her generation and the first bourgeois mistress ever to grace the hallowed halls of Versailles.
The year is 1745 and Louis XV’s bed is once again empty. Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a beautiful girl from the middle classes. As a child, a fortune teller had mapped out Jeanne’s destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King’s arms.
All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeoise interloper with a more suitable mistress. As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals—including a lustful lady-in-waiting, a precocious 14-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters—she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity. Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution.
Enigmatic beauty, social climber, actress, trendsetter, patron of the arts, spendthrift, whoremonger, friend, lover, foe: history books say many things about the famous Marquise de Pompadour. Alongside Catherine the Great of Russia and Maria Theresa of Austria, she is considered one of the three most powerful women of the 18th century, and one of the most influential royal mistresses of all time.
In The Rivals of Versailles, Christie gets to the heart of Pompadour’s legendary relationship with Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” king. Pompadour was not only his mistress, but his confidante and influential political adviser for close to twenty years. Full of historical insight, decadence, wit and scandal, The Rivals of Versailles is about one woman’s trials and triumphs, her love for a king, and her role in shaping a nation.
Author Sally Christie
I’m a life-long history buff – and I mean life-long. One of the first adult books I read was Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots. Wow! That book just blew my little ten year old mind: something about the way it brought the past right back to life, made it live again on the page. I date my obsession with history to that time, but I’d been writing (“writing”) ever since I was able to hold a pencil.
If you’d told my 12-year old self that I’d not be a writer when I grew up, I would have laughed you out of the tree house. With a few detours along the way, to work overseas in consulting and development, as well as to go to business school, I’ve finally come full circle to where I think I should be.
I currently live in Toronto and when I’m not writing, I’m playing lots of tennis; doing random historical research (old census records are my favorite); playing Scrabble, and squirrel-watching (the room where I write has French doors leading out to a deck; I avidly follow, and feed, a scruffy gang).
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