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Versailles    by Kathryn Davis Amazon.com order for
Versailles
by Kathryn Davis
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Back Bay, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Kathryn Davis gives us the effervescent and atmospheric musings of a disembodied soul - Marie Antoinette looking back on her time at Versailles. The author portrays Antoinette as a lively and observant young woman, a queen who doesn't take herself too seriously, despite a very public life, in which she (and her husband Louis XVI) are continually on display. The story is interspersed with short, satiric sequences from plays performed by Antoinette and her courtiers.

Though I doubt that, given history, Marie Antoinette was as intelligent and aware as she's shown here, at least the author makes us see her as a real person. She clings to her pug Eggplant, misses aspects of her Austrian childhood, is fond of her befuddled husband - 'So sweet, my Louis. What was he doing in that nest of vipers?' - loves her Swedish Axel, has a difficult relationship with her daughter, 'La SÚrieuse', and adores the small son, who is taken from her at the end and taught to villify his parents.

Davis incorporates a surprising amount of historical detail (such as the royal lever and various hairstyles involving a 'mountain of hair'), without weighing her story down in her research. Her perspective on Versailles and its queen is a lyrical, empathetic account of a young woman on a collision course with destiny.

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