Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A-Z Wednesday

Reading at the Beach is hosting A-Z Wednesday where bloggers take the time to highlight one book that starts with the letter of the day. This week is the letter V.

Versailles by Kathryn Davis is a gorgeous novel of the girl Marie Antoinette and how she was led to the guillotine. There was something completely mesmerizing about the language in here and I have recommended it for years to people interested in historical fiction.

Amazon has this to say about it: Davis (Walking Tour) takes liberties with the legend of Marie Antoinette in this novelization of the doomed queen's life, narrated as a series of sketches told mainly from Antoinette's point of view. As Davis imagines it, Antoinette is a bawdy, clever, forthright young woman interested above all in her own pleasures; she and her bumbling husband, Louis XVI, are guilty of little more than enjoying their courtly privileges. Davis has a light touch, and she sometimes wryly acknowledges questions of historical veracity that the novel inevitably raises. Recalling a conversation with Axel, a member of the Swedish court and object of her affection, Antoinette says, "Of course these may not have been our exact words, though they're close enough, at least in spirit." A few pages later, in case the reader gets any ideas about consulting an encyclopedia: "Nor does it matter, really, if Axel was my lover, in the physical sense at least.... It matters to historians, most of them men. It matters to gossips, most of them women. The pleasure is in the speculation.... Were we sexually intimate? What difference could it possibly make to you?" Such playful self-reflexivity is woven through accounts of historic events and personages, among them Madame Du Barry, Mirabeau and the story of the imprisonment and execution of the king and queen. Davis's Antoinette a wit and a flirt is bewitching, and the book is an alternately funny and melancholy meditation on the passage of time and the vagaries of history.


  1. This sounds like a good read!
    Here's my V book, if you want to have a peek.

  2. Oooh, I love all things Marie Antionette! Looks great!

  3. Sounds beautiful and I love the cover.


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