Margo Tanenbaum's Reviews > The Queen's Lover

The Queen's Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray
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's review
May 12, 12

bookshelves: 18th-century, france, adult
Read in May, 2012

I have a weird fascination with Marie Antoinette and her family and was really looking forward to reading this new novel about Count Fersen, who was perhaps the secret love of Marie Antoinette's life and the architect of the failed escape plan to Varennes, after which the royal family was captured and soon imprisoned in Paris. I didn't feel this novel, which is told in the first person by Fersen himself with other parts narrated by his sister, added anything to my knowledge of the story or my understanding of the key figures involved. There are some very racy sex scenes with Fersen and the queen which frankly I found very distasteful--it gave me a feeling of being a voyeur at the scene which rather than being titillating seemed simply tacky. Fersen comes across as a very unpleasant person--it was hard to even empathize when he himself is beaten to death by an anti-royalist crowd in Sweden some years later. And the way the author incorporated actual parts of letters written by Fersen and others made the book very awkward--was she trying to write a novel, a biography, or a history book? It seems like she couldn't decide, and it's a messy melange that doesn't work well. If you want to read about Marie Antoinette, check out instead Abundance, by Sena Jeter Naslund, a much better novel, or Queen of Fashion, an excellent nonfiction treatment by historian Caroline Weber.
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