Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Weight of Glory

 Not prison or the Terror, not threat of death or even the loss of her entire family had been able to rattle her steel-trap mind. All the sorrows were suddenly catching up with her, like hounds closing in upon their game. After a decade of maintaining a day by day façade of marital contentment, of suppressing her emotions of betrayal and disappointment, of fighting envy of women with children, of trying to build the confidence of a man whose soul was scarred beyond repair, she felt she had lost her former self-possession and was scrambling to cling to every vestige of peace and sanity that remained to her.
- From Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal
Here an extraordinary review of the novel Madame Royale by British author Gareth Russell. It is an entertaining read in and of itself, whether or not you have read (or plan to read) the book. I enjoy Gareth's writing immensely and especially in this case. Here are some quotes from Gareth's review:
I’m not ashamed to say that, in terms of nuances, Miss Vidal outstrips my characterisation of her in All Those Who Suffered, hands-down. It is a testament to her skills as an historical novelist and her passion for her characters that she has been able to take such a potentially difficult character as Marie-Thérèse and turn her into a figure worthy of being the eponymous heroine of a novel.
Historically speaking, the real Marie-Joséphine was quite possibly a repressed lesbian; she was certainly an un-repressed alcoholic. Whatever the truth, being married to a man such as Louis XVIII was bound to have made her life miserable anyway. Eaten away by the charade of her married life, consumed by guilt for her jealousy of the now-dead Marie-Antoinette, robbed of her former lavish lifestyle by the Revolution and sinking further and further into an abyss of alcoholism and depression, Marie-Joséphine is the novel's most pathetic character and the scene in which she dies, begging Marie-Thérèse to forgive her for her jealous spite of her mother, finally made me feel sympathy for an historical character whom I had always previously dismissed as a gaudy, irritating irrelevance.
And, as far as I’m concerned, I would say that Madame Royale’s depiction of Talleyrand is one of the finest examples of historical characterisation currently in print. It’s a triumph. I never expected to feel anything but contempt for the former bishop, but, as with Marie-Joséphine, I found myself unexpectedly moved. And hats off to Miss Vidal for making that possible!

One thing I enjoyed very much in Trianon was Miss Vidal’s style of writing and I’m happy to say it returned again in Madame Royale. Whether it was intentional or not, I don’t know, but her approach of writing in a style very reminiscent of the memoirs of the actual period seemed to me to the perfect way of drawing you into the early 19th-century’s psychology, modes of expression and values. I've always loved that era's style of literary delivery and so Madame Royale was a treat to read, even from a stylistic point-of-view.
Thank you, dear Gareth, for the high praise. We anticipate your novel Popular which will be released in July 2011.
Marie-Thérèse and her uncles
Louis-Antoine and Marie-Thérèse
Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette giving alms
Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte of France 
Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte of France



Anonymous said...

Beautiful review! I like book reviews bc they show me some aspect of the book that might not have caught my attention...interesting!

elena maria vidal said...

Exactly, me too!

May said...

Wonderful words, and all deserved of course!

Now, I want even more to write a novel about Marie-Amelie!

Julygirl said...

Great review! I agree with Gareth on all points.