Author: Sally Christie
Publisher: Atria Paperback
Part of a Series: Mistresses of Versailles
Type of book: France, mistresses, 1730-1745, Ancient Regime, Louis XV, cheating, marriage, Versailles, Court Life, wars, ignorance is bliss, religion, power play, struggles between people
Year it was published: 2015
A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France's most "well-beloved" monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.
Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.
Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne, four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.
Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot - and women - forward. The King's scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters:sweet, naive Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne, will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.
In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie's stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood; of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.
The main characters include the Mailly-Nesle sisters: Louise who is a ridiculously giving soul and refuses to face the ugly aspects of her reality. There is also Pauline who is more informed than any of the sisters and becomes extremely determined to succeed and get the king's heart. Pauline is a bit ruthless and isn't afraid to use whoever she needs to. Diane is compliant and tends to listen to her sisters a whole lot. She isn't a good writer, she loves food a little too much and accepts things as facts rather than questioning them. Marie-Anne is the last sister and she is best described as incredibly beautiful, much more ruthless and ambitious than Pauline could ever be, and a gardener as well as a very voracious reader. The reader doesn't really get to know Hortense very well. The King is the sisters' lover and object of their desires. He is married, and in beginning was frightened of being linked to his grandfather, the infamous Louis XIV who is known as the Sun King and legitimized all the children he had born out of wedlock. Louis XV is also a bit religious and craves comforts of old while at the same time he is interested in newness.
What goes around comes around
The story is in first person narrative from the five sisters' points of view, although Hortense didn't play a huge role as Marie-Anne, Louise, Pauline and Diane have played. It is warned when the person telling the story changes and the story is chronological, going from 1730 up to 1745. The sisters all have distinct personalities thus it was easy to tell them apart from one another, and the story itself is intriguing and a bit creepy in some places, (the part where the King learns of other sisters...) I was a bit shocked and saddened to learn that all people do at court is play games and nothing else, literally. Heck, no one is in touch with the real world and no one cares for it.
(From France Book Tours)
Few years ago I had a slight obsession with watching a teen movie called Cruel Intentions which caused me to begin read an epistolary novel on which Cruel Intentions was based on; Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos DeLaclos. Dangerous Liaisons was also written during the Ancient Regime before Revolution and Terror took everything away. There are quite a few things that I didn't get while reading Dangerous Liaisons, thus when I read Sisters of Versailles, I was able to gain a much deeper understanding of Dangerous Liaisons as well as Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu and why the Heian Era has fallen. I really enjoyed reading the book and getting to know the awesome characters of the five sisters, the King and various family members. It also was shocking on how little marriage was thought of back then, and how much the characters cheated on one another. In a lot of cases at court, marriage was an excuse to cheat on someone else. I often wondered how the French monarchy had fallen, what had happened to make it that way, and I finally have my answers at last. Be prepared to be shocked, educated, disgusted and saddened as we see the French Court of Ancient Regime through the eyes of the five Mailly-Nesle sisters.
This is for France Book Tours
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)