THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES: A Novel and book One of a Trilogy ~Sally Christie
This historic fiction brings us right to the Court of France’s beloved King Louis XV and the lives of 5 sisters and how they intersected his life and his love.
All 5 of the Nesle Sisters spend time in the Court of Versailles serving the Polish Queen of Louis the XV. 4 of the 5 become mistresses of the King over the years and one produced a son for him. Christie has researched this family group through their letters and Court records; finally to spend a lengthy search through other books and journals of the Court to find information about the sisters’ lives. Each sister had to be married to serve at court and several of them had children of their own cared for by their spouses’ families. The 84-year-old Hortense is the narrator of the story and the sister who did not become the king’s mistress.
TLC Book Tours sent me an advanced reading e-copy of this book for review and it was a very interesting, well-researched novel.
The story is full of fancy dresses and hairstyles and how these rather “poor” young women coped with not having a large legacy or dowry. A Father who spent all his money and drank away any extra funds raised them in Paris. A relative was hired to be the governess and cope with the 5 sisters in the nursery and their mother was rarely home as she was serving the Court and having numerous affairs. The Governess was truly teaching a bazaar curriculum and yet each of the girls knew how to read and write and proper manners of a sort. An aunt and the Court arranged marriages after the death of their mother. They were each very clever in recreating their 4 dresses so that the other “Ladies” did not realize they were wearing the same gowns for each day.
Louise was the eldest and she was a supportive person and a bit pious, her husband abandoned her right after the wedding. Homely Pauline was the most demanding and controlling in the nursery and at Court; she produced a son for the King. Diane was giggly and frivolous trying to do the right thing but quite often messing up what was to come next. Hortense, was the most pious, beautiful, and lived a very restrictive life, adored her husband and produced 2 children for his estate. Beautiful Marie-Anne was the youngest and had a good marriage to a young man who was gone as a soldier quite often and lived isolated in Burgundy. Marie-Anne spent her time reading the books in the massive estate library and developing a greenhouse of herbs and spices. Her reading led her to study war, philosophy, and finance as she was the smartest of the sisters and then grew into being the meanest of the sisters.
Learning history through a novel is a fascinating way to proceed and this was a rousing story with lots of pouty moments and confusions, which explained the Court life very well. I have read a number of historic novels about the British Court, but this was one of my first delves into the French Court. How silly the women were and often how mean and conniving. Where do you put your beauty mark? Would you ever use real butterflies to decorate your hair or gown? How about adorning your self with mauve or purple from head to toe? How frivolous is it to educate women? Lots of past lessons to be glimpsed in this delightful book; I think you would enjoy this history lesson very much.
About Sally Christie
Sally Christie was born in England of British parents but grew up mostly in Canada. As a child she moved around with her family and then continued her wandering as she pursued a career in international development; she’s lived in 14 different countries and worked in many more. She’s now settled in Toronto and loving it.
Sally lives and breathes history; ever since she read Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots when she was 10, she’s been an avid history junkie. She wishes more attention and technical innovation was devoted to time travel, because there is nothing she would rather do than travel back in time! Writing historical fiction is a poor substitute, but it’s the best one we have at the moment.
“When not reading and writing history, she’s a tennis and Scrabble fanatic.” (From the TLC webpage)