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Versaillesby Kathryn Davis
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Davis has a light touch, and she sometimes wryly acknowledges questions of historical veracity that the novel inevitably raises....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." Publishers Weekly
"Davis is a startling and perceptive writer who should be better known. Maybe this reimagining of Marie Antoinette will break her out." Library Journal
"[S]plendid....It is rapturous, like an aria....[The language] is beautiful but less ornate than in much of Davis's previous work....The images from the queen's memory are lovely and magical, but they're served in simple, sensual sentences that sound the way one's everlasting spirit might sound, if it could speak." Stacey D'Erasmo, The New York Times Book Review
"There's flash aplenty, and data galore....But there's also a brittleness in tone and a certain stasis of manner that make the reader feel as though little is happening even when the monarchy itself is collapsing....Thoroughly researched, carefully composed — yet psychologically inert and unalive." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Kathryn Davis is the recipient of a Kafka Prize for fiction by an American woman and the 1999 Morton Dauwen Zabel Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters. Davis teaches at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York and lives with her husband and daughter in Vermont.
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