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Les Adieux à la reine - Prix Fémina 2002 (original 2002; edition 2002)
Farewell, My Queen by Chantal Thomas (2002)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743260783, Paperback)It was once the job of Madame Agathe-Sidonie Laborde to read books aloud to Marie-Antoinette. Now exiled in Vienna, she looks back twenty-one years to the legendary opulence of Versailles and meticulously reconstructs July 14, 15, and 16 of 1789.
When Agathe-Sidonie is summoned to the Queen's side on the morning of the 14th, Versailles is a miniature universe, sparkling with every outward appearance of happiness and power, peopled with nobles of minutely calibrated rank, and run according to a hundred-year-old ritual called the Perfect Day. But with the shocking news that someone has woken the King in the night, order begins to disintegrate and word of the fall of the Bastille seeps into court. Soon Versailles's beauty is nothing more than a shell encasing rising panic and chaos. Agathe-Sidonie watches as the Queen's attempts to flee are aborted; her most intimate friend betrays her; and the King, appearing to sleepwalk through this crisis, never alters his routine of visiting the Apollo Salon several times a day to consult a giant crystal thermometer.
From the tiniest garret to the Hall of Mirrors, where Marie-Antoinette stands alone and terrified in the dark, Chantal Thomas shows us a world on the edge of oblivion and an intimate portrait of the woman who, like "fire in motion," was its center.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:58 -0400)
"Madame Laborde takes us within the chateau, meticulously reconstructing the 14th, 15th, and 16th of July 1789 - terrifying days when the servants disappear and many of the courtiers flee. Versaille's miniature universe, sparkling with every outward appearance of happiness and beauty, is brilliantly juxtaposed with the chaos that erupts. We witness the unraveling of the chateau's dawn-to-dusk ritual and the rising panic of the Court as Versailles edges closer and closer to collapse. Madame Laborde herself flees the night of the sixteenth, escaping with the Queen's favorite, Gabrielle de Polignac, and her once-powerful family." "Transporting us to eighteenth-century France with the skill of a consummate storyteller. Thomas evokes the splendor of Versailles on the eve of its downfall. Her portrait of Marie-Antoinette and of Versailles - brought vividly to life by a wealth of detail - is an incomparable account of a lost world."--BOOK JACKET. "A woman whose function it once was to read books aloud to Marie-Antoinette is haunted by the memory of her last days at the French court of Versailles, when Louis XVI's magnificent chateau succumbed to the irrepressible forces of revolution. Now exiled in Vienna, Madame Agathe-Sidonie Laborde looks back twenty-one years to the legendary opulence of Versailles and, overcome with nostalgia and remorse, discovers the full measure of her fascination with the Queen she served.".
(summary from another edition)
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