22 June, 2013

The Queen's Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray [Elizabeth, Highland Park Library]

This absorbing historical novel is ideal for a relaxing winter weekend. It tells the familiar story Marie Antoinette but from a new perspective, that of Count Axel von Fersen, generally thought to have been her lover at some stage, and is definitely so in this book. It is equally his story and is told by his sister, supposedly using his journal and letters, which are real and have been studied by the author. Von Fersen led a full life; he held offices under the Swedish monarchy, fought with French volunteers against the British in the American War of Indepence, travelled frequently and organised the escape of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette which would probably have succeeded had his plan been followed properly.

Tension builds up quickly in the story as the monarchy collapses, Louis and Marie Antoinette are abandoned by their brothers and other European monarchies and their prisons become more and more dire. Sometimes the book reads more like history than a novel but this does not detract from its drama. In fact it is hard to put down.  Despite being Marie Antoinette's lover, von Thersen is sympathetic to Louis who is portrayed more fully than in many novels about Marie Antoinette. It is often hard to know what is fact and what is the author's invention but rather than being annoying,  I find it has inspired me to read more on the subject.

If you like a dramatic story with a serious historical setting you should enjoy The Queen's Lover. Auckland Libraries has several other titles by Francine du Plessix Gray notably, in this case, At Home with the Marquis de Sade:A Life. 

Title: The Queen's Lover
Author: Francine du Plessix Gray
ISBN: 9781594203374 (hbk.)
Published: 2012
Publisher: Penguin Press

 - Elizabeth, Highland Park Library

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