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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.
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