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FICTION/Davis, Kathryn
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1st Floor FICTION/Davis, Kathryn Checked In
Subjects
Published
Boston : Houghton Mifflin 2002.
Language
English
Physical Description
206 p. ; 20 cm
ISBN
0618221360
Main Author
Kathryn Davis, 1946- (-)
Review by Library Journal Reviews

Winner of the Kafka Prize and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Davis is a startling and perceptive writer who should be better known. Maybe this reimagining of Marie Antoinette will break her out. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Davis (The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf) offers a short but poignant meditation on the life of Marie Antoinette and the role of fate in our lives. Much has been written about that queen, but this novel is unique, using Versailles and its Hall of Mirrors as much more than just a building and a room. Versailles was built to reflect the glory and power of Louis XIV, but by the end of the 18th century it had become a cocoon sheltering its inhabitants in a beautiful but artificial world. At the age of 14, Marie leaves her Austrian homeland to join her fiancé, the eventual Louis XVI. Never quite at home in France and never really accepted by her subjects, she finds solace in Versailles itself. She flits from room to room, from circumstance to circumstance, unaware of the symbol she has become until it is too late. The portrait that emerges is of a woman hemmed in by fate and her own naïveté, who has her faults but who is nonetheless courageous and devoted to her family. Told from Marie's perspective, this is a refreshing change of pace from the typical historical novel and is highly recommended to all public and most academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/02.] David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, FL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Davis (Walking Tour) takes liberties with the legend of Marie Antoinette in this novelization of the doomed queen's life, narrated as a series of sketches told mainly from Antoinette's point of view. As Davis imagines it, Antoinette is a bawdy, clever, forthright young woman interested above all in her own pleasures; she and her bumbling husband, Louis XVI, are guilty of little more than enjoying their courtly privileges. Davis has a light touch, and she sometimes wryly acknowledges questions of historical veracity that the novel inevitably raises. Recalling a conversation with Axel, a member of the Swedish court and object of her affection, Antoinette says, "Of course these may not have been our exact words, though they're close enough, at least in spirit." A few pages later, in case the reader gets any ideas about consulting an encyclopedia: "Nor does it matter, really, if Axel was my lover, in the physical sense at least.... It matters to historians, most of them men. It matters to gossips, most of them women. The pleasure is in the speculation.... Were we sexually intimate? What difference could it possibly make to you?" Such playful self-reflexivity is woven through accounts of historic events and personages, among them Madame Du Barry, Mirabeau and the story of the imprisonment and execution of the king and queen. Davis's Antoinette a wit and a flirt is bewitching, and the book is an alternately funny and melancholy meditation on the passage of time and the vagaries of history. (Aug. 8) Forecast: Writer's writer Davis deserves a broader audience; glamorous subject Marie Antoinette and a glittery chandelier-festooned jacket may help break her out. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A fictionalized account of the life of Marie Antoinette follows her through such challenges as her early marriage to the future King Louis XVI, struggles with the expectations of her station, and palace betrayals and politics.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A fictionalized account of the life of Marie Antoinette follows her through such challenges as her early marriage to the future King Louis XVI, struggles with the expectations of her station, painful palace betrayals and politics, and interactions with such figures as Mirabeau, Du Barry, and Robespierre.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Versailles is the story of an expansive spirit locked in a pretty body and an impossible moment in history. As the novel begins, fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette is traveling from Austria to France to meet her fiance, the mild, abstracted Louis. He will become the sixteenth Louis to reign in France, and Antoinette will be his queen, although neither shows a strong inclination toward power, politics, or the roles that they have been summoned to play. Antoinette is hemmed in by towering hairdos, the xenophobic suspicion of her subjects, the misogyny of her detractors, the larger-than-life figures of Mirabeau, Du Barry, and Robespierre, and the manifold twists and turns of the palace she calls home.The novel moves from room to room, from garden to fountain, occasionally breaking into playlets in which we glimpse characters struggling to mind their step in the great ballroom of the world. Driving our tour is the relentless engine of time, that friend to youth, for whom anything is possible. Antoinette gives birth to four children, two of whom will outlive her; she falls in love; she dies at the guillotine. A meditation on time and the soul's true journey within it, Versailles is at once wittily entertaining and astonishingly wise.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Versailles is the story of an expansive spirit locked in a pretty body and an impossible moment in history. As the novel begins, fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette is traveling from Austria to France to meet her fiancé, the mild, abstracted Louis. He will become the sixteenth Louis to reign in France, and Antoinette will be his queen, hemmed in by towering hairdos, the xenophobic suspicion of her subjects, the misogyny of her detractors, the larger-than-life figures of Mirabeau, Du Barry, Robespierre, and the manifold twists and turns of the palace she calls home.The novel moves from room to room, from garden to fountain, occasionally breaking into playlets in which we glimpse characters struggling to mind their step in the great ballroom of the world. Driving our tour is the relentless engine of time, that friend to youth, for whom anything is possible. Antoinette gives birth to four children, two of whom will outlive her; she falls in love; she dies at the guillotine. A meditation on time and the soul’s true journey within it, Versailles is at once wittily entertaining and astonishingly wise.