Farewell My Queen a Novel Hardcover – Apr 29 2003
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As revolution rages outside the palace walls, inside the court of Versailles--the court of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI--denial reigns before giving way to alarm, which in turn degenerates into panic and chaos. Thomas spins the familiar events of the 1789 French Revolution into a compelling novel, with the central character less the famously ill-fated queen than the insular and ritualized society of the palace. The story is told by a woman looking back 30 years, to when it was her job to read books aloud to Marie Antoinette. Her status as courtier makes her the best kind of narrator--at once an insider and an observer of the royals. She describes the final days before revolution engulfs the palace with insight and surprising slices of humor. Some passages read almost like satire, as the indulged inhabitants of Versailles cling to the privileges that have defined their now-threatened lives--royals are reluctant to leave the palace without proper traveling attire, courtiers try to flee while lugging heavy possessions. Thomas' formidable skills as a researcher give the book authenticity, and her keen eye for human behavior and talent for storytelling make it sing. Karen Holt
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"Elegant, powerful ... No ordinary historical novel. It's a bravura glimpse into a time past and a dreamlike life that seemed to have nowhere to go but into oblivion." -The Washington Post Book World
“Delightful … Vivid and elegant … [A] rich tableau vivant … In these pages the ill-fated queen is allowed to be human.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Illuminating … Intimate … The charm of its language, Thomas’ thorough research, and her compassion for her subject not only imbue the novel with remarkable authenticity but also render it a memorable billet-doux to a bygone France.” –Orlando Sentinel
“A fascinating portrayal … Gorgeous details.” –The Christian Science Monitor
"Graceful, exquisitely detailed . . . the delights of this rendition lie in the details. . . . Like the tiny enamel painting of Marie Antoinette's bright blue eye that inspires Laborde's reminiscences, this is a cunning, gem-like miniature." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Compelling . . . Thomas's formidable skills as a researcher gives the book authenticity, and her keen eye for human behavior makes it sing." --Booklist (starred review) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This brilliant work of historical fiction shines quite a fabulous light on mostly Marie Antoinette in her final days, but also the rest of the French Court as the Revolution erupts. The tale provides the most intimate levels of detail that history ignores (a luxurious castle overrun by vermin stunned this reviewer). Madam Laborde's account is so dramatic and specific even to the smallest tidbits that the audience ends up with a terrific work of fiction that provides an insightful reality of the era, so much so that audience will feel they are standing in the dark along side the frightened queen who tried to flee when it was too late. Historical readers including non-fiction fans will treasure this incredible creative masterpiece.
The story is rather like watching a ship sink. A world full of people and customs that are on the brink of extinction and right up to the last minute few of them want to believe that their world is ending. Versailles and its inhabitants and centuries of customs vanish in the space of three days.
In this small novel the author brings to life for a short space the doomed world of the French aristocracy, told through the eyes of someone who lived on the fringes of their world, but still knew its inhabitants well. This is not my favourite historical novel, but it is one that is memorable for its feeling of doom and how well the author seems to have caught the lost world of France before the revolution.
Would I read this book again? At this point, I couldn't give a definite yes. I would recommend you borrow this from the library to read before buying it to see if it suits your tastes in historical novels as in many ways it differs from the "standard" history story.
We follow the inexorably obsequious Laborde as she scuttles from room to room not understanding what is happening to shake her gentle world, responding in a child-like fear to the anxious adults. The scene where Madame Laborde is summoned to the Queen's Gilt Chamber to assist in her packing for trip to Metz best epitomises the rapid descent into chaos as the Queen's ladies desperately seek to retain some normality in the absence of hard facts and the maelstrom that is rife rumour.Read more ›
High points of the novel: the meticulous description of the most minute gradations of rank and the way they constantly underwent change.
Most recent customer reviews
Chantal Thomas did a wonderful job on this one-it made up for that travesty of a book, 'The Wicked Queen'. Read morePublished on March 1 2004 by Phil K.
This is the way I like to read history, from the point of view of a nobody caught in the unavoidable currents of destiny. Read morePublished on Oct. 6 2003 by Rebecca Brown
...This is a wonderful, atmospheric book that in my mind really succeeded in giving a sense of the ways that the French Revolution completely took apart the aristocracy. Read morePublished on July 14 2003 by missgrundy