Blog Tour, Review

Blog Tour + Review: The Sisters of Versailles by Sallie Christie

33362126.jpg

4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I’m pretty picky about the blog tours I take part in nowadays, and will only sign up if I know I’m going to enjoy the book. So of course I knew I would enjoy The Sisters of Versailles – whilst I’m not a fan of romance novels, I do enjoy a bit of steamy historical fiction – but I didn’t realise just how much I would enjoy it. Told from the point of view of the Nesle sisters, this novel is unique in that whilst its main characters were historical figures, very little has been written about them in English. Four of the five Nesle sisters became mistresses to King Louis XV of France, and whilst this was of course a huge scandal at the time, it doesn’t seem to be something that has been recorded quite as much as you would think. In fact, I’m pretty sure more people would be nore familiar with Madame de Pompadour, another of Louis XV’s mistresses, than Louise, Marie-Anne, Hortense, Diane or Paulie Nesle.

From the very first chapter of the book, I got a really clear and vivid image of life at Versailles. It seemed so colourful and fast-paced, but there was also something darker hiding in the shadows, hinting at what was yet to come. The reader sees it all at first through the eyes of Louise, the eldest of the Nesle sisters and the first to go to Versailles. From the moment the sisters become of a suitable age for marriage, they are obsessed with the idea of it – so it is so sad that Louise’s marriage, to a man twenty years her senior, makes her feel so lonely. Her husband is an imbecile and a horrendous person; when her mother dies he complains of the ‘inconvenience’ of having to travel to Paris to help his grieving wife. Therefore it is completely understandable when she is persuaded by the ladies of the court to have an affair, after all everyone is doing it. But then Louise comes to the attention of the king, and everything changes.

Whilst each sister narrates at least one chapter each, their voices didn’t feel entirely distinctive. They had very clear cut personalities though: Diane the slob, Louise the naive one, Hortense the pious one, Marie-Anne a revolutionary in the making, and Pauline, determined to get whatever she wanted despite the consequences. Pauline’s letters, not so subtly hinting to Louise that she deserved a visit to Versailles, were kind of hilarious. At first I quite liked Pauline, but her later actions turned me against her. Watching her steal the man her sister loves, then reading Louise’s point of view of the whole experience was pretty heartbreaking. Marie-Anne was a surprise, going from seemingly innocent to a real schemer.

As time went on, I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for Louise or whether I want to just shake her and shout ‘Get a grip!’. It was sad watching her pine after someone she couldn’t have, who was clearly not interested in her anymore, whilst sister after sister replaced her. I don’t know how Louis XV is represented in history (having studied his grandson Louis XVI in much more depth), but in this he felt so shallow. He wasn’t outright mean, but the way he treated people, especially women, as objects that he could just use and then toss aside when the next exciting thing came along, was abhorrent. He did it without people even realising they were being replaced until it was too late.

I’m so glad I got the chance to read and review The Sisters of Versailles. I have found the whole ancien regime period of French history very interesting ever since I studied it in school, and I’m always happy to read historical fiction set in that era. What I really loved here was learning about historical figures that aren’t widely written about, and the whole scandalous history of the Nesle sisters. How is the fact that Louis XV slept with four sisters not as widely known as his affairs with Madame de Pompadour? History does love a good scandal, after all.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Sally Christie for giving me the chance to read and review this one! 🙂

 

Links

tlc-logo-resized

Advertisements
Blog Tour, Review

Blog Tour + Review: I Am Venus by Bárbara Mujica

16101216.jpg

4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Today I have a review of Bárbara Mujica’s I Am Venus for you, as part of the TLC Book Tour. The book follows the life of artist Diego Velazquez, told through the eyes of those closest to him.
Narrated by the woman who posed for his portrait of Venus, this semi-biographical novel of Diego Velázquez is a wonderful piece of historical fiction. Mujica’s writing flows very smoothy, apart from the occasional untranslated Spanish word which may cause the reader to falter. I loved the tone of the book, it was both easy to read and informative.

I can’t fault Mujica’s descriptive writing. She creates some wonderfully vivid images of seventeenth century Spain, causing the reader to experience the smells and sights of Madrid. She also clearly sets out current events at the time, meaning that any reader who does not know too much about seventeenth century European history should be able to follow the story with few issues. As I studied this period of history in school, it was really fun to see familiar names and figures brought to life. The one thing that may confuse the reader at some points however, are the similar names and rather wide cast of characters. Whilst this is obviously not the fault of the author, the characters having been real people four hundred years ago, it would have perhaps been nice to have a list of characters in the book somewhere.

The major issue I had with the book is that the point of view was often confusing. I understand that the author wanted the identity of Venus to be a mystery (she is unknown to this day) whilst also having her narrate the book. This lead to some odd narratives, often switching between first and third person and in fact making the book feel like it had several narrators. I think the idea behind it was good, but it perhaps was not pulled off correctly.

I wouldn’t so much refer to this book as a ‘story of scandal’ – especially when in the context of history that makes me think of things like the corruption of the Borgias or the supposedly inbred Hapsburgs – and the book doesn’t actually focus too much on what is going on in the wide world, but more on domestic and smaller issues relating to Velázquez. And whilst the book is about Velázquez, he is often absent for many chapters – as he was often absent from the lives of his loved ones – so it is more a story about the people in his life.

I particularly enjoyed this one because most historical fiction that I read is either ancient history, or based in medieval or Tudor England. So this was a nice change, and is definitely a recommended read for anyone with an interest in seventeenth century European art or history, or the Baroque period.

Click here to visit the other stops on the tour and also read about the author. 
Blog Tour, Giveaway, Review

Blog Tour + Review + Giveaway: The Returned by Jason Mott

17658905.jpg

4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I’m proud to be taking part in TLC Book Tours‘ tour for The Returned by Jason Mott! In this post you will find a review of the book, a little bit about the author and a giveaway.

If someone that you had known and loved, long since passed away, suddenly turned up on your doorstep, how would you react? This is what the Hargreaves, and others around the world in The Returned, have to deal with.

The book raises a lot of interesting questions, and demonstrates many of the possible responses through the actions of different countries throughout the world. It is something that would divide people, and certainly does in the little Southern town of Arcadia. After years and years, family and friends will have moved on and accepted the death of a loved one. So how would they feel when that person, who has been missing from their life for so long, suddenly appears as if nothing ever happened?
Like the Hargreaves, many people are terrified of the idea – until it affects them personally. Lucille refers to the Returned as ‘devils’, and Harold doesn’t show any strong opinion. That is, until their son suddenly appears, fifty years after his death and eight years old once again, looking exactly as he did on the day that he drowned. By this point Harold and Lucille are in their seventies, past the age and energy level of being able to look after a young, hyperactive child, but he is their son – or is he? Is he really their son, who died fifty years ago, or is he an apparition, a clone, anything but?
The Returned have the memories and habits of the people that they once were, and the book  never really addresses whether they are anything other than those people – it’s pretty much left open to the reader. The book also points out a few other problems with these ‘miracles’. What do you do when a spouse, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend who died all those years ago suddenly reappears and wants to be with you? What if you had someone else, a new family? How about people who were murdered – could they name their killer?
So many questions! It really is a thought provoking book.
The Hargreaves are a sweet old couple, Harold grumpy but with a soft spot for his wife, and Lucille a lot tougher than she originally seems. Both characters develop at a good pace over the course of the book, recent events causing them to question their own beliefs and morals.

It was nice to have various interludes all over the world of the Returned appearing, but I think a bit more of that would have been better. As it was, it felt a little like it was only affecting the town of Arcadia, rather than being a worldwide occurrence. Apparently there are some shorts covering other characters and places, but I really wouldn’t have minded that in the main storyline. There were also no stories of any Returned being upset or confused by the time skip, or age differences with loved ones – in fact they barely seem to bat an eye at their parents or lovers suddenly being fifty years older.

Jason Mott chooses to ignore writing any explanation for the Returned, and it isn’t really questioned by many of the characters. Instead he delves straight into how people would react or feel, he plays brilliantly on emotion and character development. I think this was the right choice; by leaving out any reasoning behind the sudden appearance of the deceased he leaves it very much open to the reader to decide how and why, whilst probably also widening the target audience for the book.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read. Slow-paced to start with, it picks up and ends with a shock. It had me really thinking about the situations within the story and how I would react if I were part of them, and it’s always great when a book gets you to interact that way.

About the Author

 

Jason Mott holds a B.A. in fiction and an M.F.A. in poetry, both from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and is the author of two poetry collections. His writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, and he was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. Jason lives in North Carolina. The Returned is his first novel.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter

The Returned is also being made into a television series, entitled Resurrection! Optioned by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, it will air on ABC in the US this autumn.

Giveaway