Farewell, My Queen : a novel

by Chantal Thomas

Other authorsMoishe Black (Translator)
Hardcover, 2003

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : G. Braziller, 2003.

Description

"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.".… (more)

Media reviews

Le Point
Dans les pas d'Agathe Sidonie, le lecteur découvre les personnages du château, de "l'amoureux de la reine" à "la Panique", cette gueuse qui, le 16 juillet, parvient à interrompre le cérémonial du dîner et à jeter un rat mort au milieu de la table du monarque. Le tout, enlevé dans un phrasé lent et somptueux de cérémonie royale, fait des "Adieux à la reine" un livre très passionnant. Et même, si l'on y regarde de près, tout à fait d'actualité...
3 more
Télérama
De jour en jour, même ici, la Révolution semble inéluctable. Et le monde ancien, frivole, léger, d'une mortelle beauté, pressent qu'il va s'éteindre à jamais. Chantal Thomas nous le donne à sentir avec une grâce infinie, fait deviner la grande histoire par l'anecdote, le fracas de la Révolution par le silence apeuré des aristocrates, l'émergence du peuple par la fuite des favoris. De ce récit en creux de la tourmente, du basculement dans la modernité, on sort ébloui. L'auteur a ressuscité tout un art de vivre, de jouir dans l'instant et le non-dit, et nous l'a fait aimer, comme Marie-Antoinette aime Gabrielle. Sans même y penser.
Magazine Lire
C'était un autre temps, un autre monde dont le prince de Talleyrand gardera la nostalgie: «Qui n'a pas vécu à cette époque n'a pas connu la douceur de vivre.» Grâce soit rendue à Chantal Thomas de nous la restituer intacte, style y compris, dominant son émotion pour mieux susciter la nôtre.
Le Monde
En choisissant, parmi les obscurs de Versailles, une lectrice adjointe, Mme Laborde, dont elle invente le destin minuscule, Chantal Thomas met en scène le bref moment où, en romancière inspirée, elle voit l'effondrement d'un monde, dont la souveraine se réduit presque à une figure allégorique. A travers les trois folles journées - et la nuit appartient pleinement à cette dramaturgie du retournement - qui séparent la prise de la Bastille, et l'incrédulité de "ce pays-ci" face à l'événement, et la fuite des courtisans, brouillon carnaval d'un triste grotesque, c'est le dérèglement de l'impitoyable mécanique de Versailles qui se joue ... Chantal Thomas sait rendre à merveille l'envers de cette "providence" qui faisait admettre qu'à la Cour "tout peut advenir". Une prouesse littéraire inattendue.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jasonlf
Farewell My Queen has some great writing, some great scenes, some great impressions, but much of it is dull and uneven.

It recounts, almost hour-by-hour, Versailles on July 14th-16th 1789. The first day is a normal one as courtiers and servants do what courtiers and servants do. The second day begins with the residents learning that the King was awoken in the middle of the night to be told about the Bastille. By the third day everyone is making plans to flee and the monarchy appears to be over.

The story is told in flashbacks from the perspective of then-young woman who was a backup reader to Marie Antoinette. Her flashbacks are largely a series of people she interacted with and scenes she witnessed, like the animal keeper lamenting the death of his animals, the official court historian who is on volume 7 of his history, the man in charge of the household who is being ignored as everyone flees, and several other characters. The depiction of Marie Antoinette wandering around alone, knocking on doors and attempting--without success--to enter them is particularly moving, as Chantal Thomas explains that these are the first times she has even touched a door. It is interesting to understand that there is something infantile about the kings and queens who were helpless without people doing even the basic things for them.

It starts out telling all of these events in a witty and amusing manner. But then the method of telling does not sustain interest for the entire book, although it picks up again at the end when everyone is fleeing Versailles.
… (more)
LibraryThing member nellista
A look at the panic that whirled around Versailles when the Bastille fell. From the point of view of Marie Antoinette's deputy reader, we see many details of court life and ritual. And some of the nastier aspects too. Apparently Versailles was riddled with vermin and on a hot day was quite a stinky place to be - but the place to be none the less. We also see how people had become so inculcated with the hierachy of the society, that people were swept up into a panic when there were no servants to do the menial tasks, like fetch a drink, or in the case of the Queen, to even open a door! The exodus of courtiers, and the influx of landed nobility seeking refuge at the palace collide, and show the many facets and dangers faced by the nobility in the face of the rumours of an advancing mob of peasantry sweeping all before them.… (more)
LibraryThing member bhowell
this is a well written but not brilliant portrait of Marie Antionette during a certain 3 days of a certain critical week in July 1789 through the eyes of her "reader". The book does create a very vivid and no doubt accurate portrait of the people who lived at Versailles during that week and the uncertainty that caused some to flee and some to arrive seeking sanctuary. I did enjoy the book and I would be very interested in reading the authors previous books.… (more)
LibraryThing member cooperca05
The last week of Marie-Antionette's freedom as a Queen recounted through the eyes and memories of a woman whose function was to read books aloud to the Queen of France. The tone reminded me of 'Rebecca' - Intriguing look into the royal court during those tumultuous last days at Versailles. There are a lot of characters, so focus on just the most relevant or you will get lost with all the names. Highly recommend for those who love historical fiction.… (more)
LibraryThing member nosajeel
Farewell My Queen has some great writing, some great scenes, some great impressions, but much of it is dull and uneven.

It recounts, almost hour-by-hour, Versailles on July 14th-16th 1789. The first day is a normal one as courtiers and servants do what courtiers and servants do. The second day begins with the residents learning that the King was awoken in the middle of the night to be told about the Bastille. By the third day everyone is making plans to flee and the monarchy appears to be over.

The story is told in flashbacks from the perspective of then-young woman who was a backup reader to Marie Antoinette. Her flashbacks are largely a series of people she interacted with and scenes she witnessed, like the animal keeper lamenting the death of his animals, the official court historian who is on volume 7 of his history, the man in charge of the household who is being ignored as everyone flees, and several other characters. The depiction of Marie Antoinette wandering around alone, knocking on doors and attempting--without success--to enter them is particularly moving, as Chantal Thomas explains that these are the first times she has even touched a door. It is interesting to understand that there is something infantile about the kings and queens who were helpless without people doing even the basic things for them.

It starts out telling all of these events in a witty and amusing manner. But then the method of telling does not sustain interest for the entire book, although it picks up again at the end when everyone is fleeing Versailles.
… (more)
LibraryThing member goth_marionette
A quick and easy read. Fairly interesting and well written. A good light read.

Awards

Language

Original language

French
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