The Kopp sisters are unlike any in fiction I have come across before! Each has her own quirks but all three - stubbornly willful Constance, bullish Norma and dramatic Fleurette - are intelligent, outspoken and incredibly resourceful, making for quite the combination. The very fact that the three live alone together happily on a farm out in the country is remarkable given the time in which they live. None of the men who come into contact with them knows quite what to do or what to expect from them, least of all the brutish Mr. Kaufman who expects them to roll over and give up after he causes the buggy accident that changes all their lives forever.
I think my favorite aspect of the novel, beyond my admiration for what Constance accomplishes by refusing to let the wrongs done to her and others go unchecked, is the introduction of what I think of as more modern law enforcement tactics in the beginning of the 20th Century. Not only does Constance do her own detective work, something not normally done, we get to see the meticulous collection of both forensic and photographic evidence, stakeouts, private investigations, the use of media (in this case newspapers) to influence the way a case is viewed by the public and sentencing deals done between police and criminals in exchange for information. There's even a courtroom drama towards the end of the novel.
An interesting twist added to the crime drama element is the slow unraveling of a long buried family secret that is revealed to the reader in flashbacks and memories. This secret, and the revelation of the paranoid and phobic way their mother raised them, is the very reason the sisters have so isolated themselves from society and determined that outsiders, even police, cannot be trusted. This buggy accident, while awful and traumatic for a number of reasons, does serve some good in bringing the sisters out of their own world somewhat and forcing them to realize that, at times, everyone needs help.
On the downside, I did find that the story dragged in parts. There are aspects added, such as Norma's slightly obsessive interest in her carrier pigeons, that didn't seem to add anything to the story and from the author's notes aren't based in the history known of the Kopp sisters. Another aspect that slowed the story down somewhat was the inclusion of a missing child case that Constance refuses to let go. While I found it interesting I'm not overly sure why it was included, other than to highlight the fact that Constance would make a good detective. I felt the close relationship between Constance and the sheriff was also made to insinuate some sort of attraction between the two, but that didn't seem to end up going anywhere.
Overall, Girl Waits with Gun is an entertaining and enlightening look into a unique, true to life woman who did her part to change the way society looked at the capabilities of women in law enforcement. There are moments of humor, heart and suspense and I'm so happy Amy Stewart brought these wonderful women's stories to the public. They really are unforgettable!...more
I have to admit up front that I haven't read very extensively about French history. British history has always been my favorite and with the exception of books centered around Marie Antoinette and/or The French Revolution I haven't had that many novels set in France cross my path. This being said I was delighted when I saw TLC Book Tours would be doing a blog tour for The Sisters of Versailles. How could I NOT want to read a novel that promises to be a well researched peek into the scandalous court of King Louis XV, something I knew so little about? Decadence, intrigue and plotting sisters...I'm all in! I'm happy to say that the synopsis lived up to it's promises and thoroughly immersed me in the plotting, grasping and sometimes devastating world of the Nesle sisters and their time at court.
These sisters had an upbringing I would expect for those of their background: distant parents, an education more in the ways of being a proper woman of fortune than of intellect, the prospect of advantageous marriages. Where what I consider "normal" for women such as these began to veer off was the fact that four of the five sisters so easily found themselves the mistresses of the King! Now, I can see one sister falling into the King's bed and would have been satisfied with Louise's story of her rise in favor and devastating fall, but the fact that her sisters schemed their way in for their own selfish, or naïve, reasons was just delightfully scandalous. This whole concept just drives the point home that regardless of familial love and devotion, the prospect of advancement can warp someone's actions and the greed, jealousies and natural competitiveness of sisters can be amplified and deformed into something quite ugly. I also enjoyed seeing how the more innocent personalities they developed in the nursery were so corrupted by the adult world they were born into....the court didn't make the women who they became but sort of exaggerated the negative aspects of their personalities. I've never come across sisters quite like these!
The chapters alternate between sisters (the first and last being from Hortense's point of view, which is interesting as she was the only sister not to land in Louis XV's bed and was the last surviving sister) and gives a front row view into not only each of their inner machinations but into the toll the court takes on their personalities over time: Louise, the eldest, was a loving, sweet yet gullible young woman until the court intrigue and betrayal of her sisters broke her spirit; Pauline, the headstrong and fiercest sister only became meaner with the court's influence; ever jolly and lazy Diane became more gluttonous in the opulence that surrounded them; and littlest Marie-Anne, always cunning, sharp and pretty, was able to further hone her skills at manipulation until she became the cruelest of them all. Only Hortense, the most pious and virtuous of the sisters, seemed to escape the court relatively unscathed, but even this might be biased as she is the one leading the story. I found their journeys not only surprising and fascinating to watch but somewhat sad, as none were really able to live full, happy lives even with all their wealth and influence.
The only small qualm I have with the story was that it felt somewhat repetitive at times. Yes, I know that Louise is easily manipulated and somewhat over-emotional, that Hortense is sanctimonious and that Diane is a horrible writer and eats a lot. I didn't feel these traits needed to necessarily be mentioned as much as they did, however I can't say it necessarily pulled down the writing too much either. It simply had me rolling my eyes from time to time, which may have been the point as I can see the other sisters doing that as well when discussing it.
Overall this is a remarkable and fascinating look at a pack of sisters that found their way into the heart of the French court but seem almost lost to history. I am so glad Sally Christie let them tell their story and I am now thoroughly intrigued by French history. This makes me that much more excited when I know there are two more novels to come out about more of Louis's mistresses, and not only am I excited to learn about them but to see how Louis's personality might change over time as he indulges even more in his need for new women and an end to his easily triggered boredom. A wonder beginning to a very promising series. ...more