Historical fiction of the highest order, The Queens Lover reveals the untold love affair between Swedish aristocrat Count Axel Von Fersen and Marie Antoinette.
The Queen's Lover begins at a masquerade ball in Paris in 1774, when the dashing Swedish nobleman Count Axel Von Fersen first meets the mesmerizing nineteen-year old Dauphine Marie Antoinette, wife of the shy, reclusive prince who will soon become Louis XVI. This electric encounter launches a life-long romance that will span the course of the French Revolution.
The affair begins in friendship, however, and Fersen quickly becomes a devoted companion to the entire royal family. As he roams through the halls of Versailles and visits the private haven of Petit Trianon, Fersen discovers the deepest secrets of the court, even learning about the startling erotic details of Marie-Antoinette's marriage to Louis XVI. But the events of the American Revolution tear Fersen away. Moved by the colonists fight for freedom, he is one of the very first to enlist in the French contingent of troops that will fight for America's independence.
When he returns, he finds France on the brink of disintegration. After the Revolution of 1789 the royal family is moved from Versailles to the Tuileries. Fersen devises an escape for the family and their young children - Marie-Thérèse and the Dauphin Louis-Charles - whom many suspect to be Fersen's son. The failed evasion attempt eventually leads to a grueling imprisonment, and the family spends its excruciating final days in captivity before the King and Queen face the guillotine.
Grieving his lost love after he returns to his native Stockholm, Fersen begins to sense the effects of the French Revolution in his own homeland. Royalists are now targets of the people's ire, and the carefree, sensuous world of his youth is fast vanishing. Fersen, who has been named Grand Marshal of Sweden, is incapable of realizing that centuries of tradition have disappeared, and he pays dearly for his naïveté, losing his life at the hands of a savage mob that views him as a pivotal member of the aristocracy.
Scion of Swedens most esteemed nobility, Fersen came to be seen as an enemy of the homeland he loved. His fate is symbolic of the violent speed with which the events of the 18th century transformed European culture.
Expertly researched and deeply imagined, The Queens Lover offers a fresh vision of of the French Revolution and of the French royal family, as told through the love story that was at its center.
sees through the queen's reputation for emptiness and the king's for dullness to give us a balanced view of what transpired within the mirrored halls of Versailles. By also making us privy to all his political escapades back in his native Sweden, the story broadens into a wider picture of European monarchy in transition." - Booklist
"Fans of history - both true and fictional - will revel in du Plessix Gray's vivid evocation of turbulent times, though readers accustomed to in-the-moment action may lament the narrative remove of the faux memoir." - Publishers Weekly
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Rated of 5
Kimberly H. (Stamford, CT)
French Historical fiction
The Queens Lover is exhaustively researched and a great intro to the French Revolution if you don't have a lot of knowledge of this fascinating period. I enjoyed the book very much but I felt it lost a bit of steam mid way through. A great read, very interesting story.
Rated of 5
Caroline R. (New Canaan, CT)
This was an interesting look at the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. In places it was difficult to follow and this was not helped by its "diary" format. Overall, a detailed historical account and a good read for someone with an avid interest in this area.
Rated of 5
Donna T. (Tacoma, WA)
A lover's view
This is not a book for some one who isn't interested in history or who likes a book with only words that are familiar. In this day, when most books are written at what I consider a middle-school level, several times, I had to stop and look up the meaning of words used by the author. It was also not an "easy" read because of the use of foreign names, titles and other words. Some of this may be attributed to the fact that in many places she used original quotes from letters, diaries, etc. as part of her text. Those personal issues aside, I found it very well written and quite engaging and by the end, I had a great affection for the characters. The story telling from both the view point of Count Axel von Fersen and his sister Sophie, allowed for quite a different (and intimate) view of the French Monarchy before and during the French Revolution. The story felt well researched while the writing felt done with true affection for the historical individuals described.
Rated of 5
Kristine L. (The Woodlands, TX)
I am always sad when I need to write a tough review as I assume the book was the love of the author's life. I felt as though the book was trying to do a bit too much and possibly attempted to capitalize on Marie Antoinette when really the author wished to the tell the story only of Fersen. It is true that this period of history is always exciting to read in a historical fiction context as well as non fiction so I've given the review an average rating. I suspect those seeking details about the Queen will be disappointed.
Rated of 5
Mary Lou F. (Naples, FL)
I enjoyed this book as I had very little knowledge of Scottish history and French history. Good historical book with plenty of intrigue.
Rated of 5
Therese X. (Calera, AL)
Queen's Lover revealed as lackluster swain
The Palace of Versailles in 1774 is the first meeting place of the tall, elegant Swede, Count Axel von Fersen and the saucy yet childlike Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XV of France. Mutual attraction soon blossomed into a lifelong love affair, according to von Fersen's extensive memoir written toward the end of his life and published posthumously by his adoring sister, Sophie. With a phenomenal memory, the Count records his upbringing in Sweden, then his many visits to France as the adoring swain of Marie Antoinette. A temporary absence in 1778 to fight with the American Revolution separated the two lovers, and The Count records the facts in his usual linear manner. Revolution would figure ironically in his own life. America, then France and most horribly on his return to Sweden. His carefully written adventures and amorous devotion to the Queen should have made for an exciting historical novel, yet from the beginning the memoir reads like an ongoing history lesson with occasional details of intimacy interspersed. Even the imagined dialogue disappointed, often having a modern flavor with one anachronistic remark that pushes the reader right out of the time period. The one animated description was the revelation that the glorious outside splendor of Versailles was belied by the smells and vermin that permeated life on the inside. Unpleasant but vividly presented. Yet, what could have been a vibrant historical novel by this prominent and well-known writer is often a tedious retelling rather than showing, due partially perhaps to the staid memoir itself. Despite admirable research, the book itself falls short of an engaging historical romance novel.
Francine du Plessix Gray has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker and is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, including Simone Weil, At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life, Rage and Fire, Lovers and Tyrants, and Soviet Women. She is most recently the author of the memoir Them: A Memoir of Parents. She lives in Connecticut.
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