Sarah's Reviews > Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV

Before Versailles by Karleen Koen
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While this certainly can't be qualified as a BAD book, when I turned the last page and closed the cover (yes, I still read tree-books), I could only say "Well, that's over." Not sad, not desperate for the next chapter, just resigned.

The story is interesting in a way - showing the first few months of the reign of the future Sun King of France, a crucial moment in Louis XIII's reign in which he made a definitive grab for power. At least, that's how the story ends.

(Minor spoilers in next paragraph- nothing you won't find on wikipedia)

It begins differently, focusing on the experiences of a new young courtier, Louise and her role in "Madame's" household, as a maid of honor to the new sister-in-law of the king. Then, it looks like it will be a bit about an affair between Madame Henriette and Louis, shifts to a love affair between Louise and the King - briefly - and then ends with a power grab.
(End spoilers)

To top of the mish-mash that is the plot, there are several subplots involving other ladies of the court, other young courtiers, and servants, but NONE of them are resolved in any reasonable matter. It just feels like the book ENDS, almost like the author said, "Alright, end of chapter. Good enough. [Climactic plot point] has happened. Let's call it a day."

I guess the confused storyline didn't help, and the confusion is exacerbated by the fact that Koen's writing style is about as clear as mud. As another reviewer has said, it's not uncommon for her to insert random I-researched-this-so-it's-going-into-the-book facts in the middle of conversations or ten-word sentences. Next, she'll switch point-of-view characters three times on one page, even when each paragraph starts with some internal dialogue. It's very jarring and more than once I had to go back to a paragraph several times to figure out the most irritating question a reader should never have to ask themselves more than once: "Whose head am I in now?" Ugh. Aggravating.

I've heard rave reviews about her Through a Glass Darkly books, so I'm willing to give her another try, but to be honest, I found this book difficult to actually read, with all the rereading and double-checking POV characters. I guess if you want to read it, no review is going to stop you, but I will say that there are better writers out there. Not necessarily better authors, but definitely better writers.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 17, 2011 – Finished Reading
August 18, 2011 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Samantha (new) - added it

Samantha I just started this book today. I completely get what you mean about retracing your steps to figure out "whose head you're in".

Oh, and did I mention that it's an audio book? Mistake!! The narrator's voice is so deep that it lulls me into a state of near-sleep. Not a good state to be in while driving around town.

I thought I might give the third disc a try starting tomorrow, but after reading your review, I'll save myself the suffering and read move on to one of Koen's more celebrated writing ventures.

Thank you for giving such a concise, well-worded review!


Sarah I can't imagine trying to listen to this on audiobook. In hindsight, I should have stopped three chapters in. I need to be more brutal about books that are going on my "Couldn't Finish" shelf.


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