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Farewell, My Queen: A Novel Hardcover – May 17, 2003

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As revolution rages outside the palace walls, inside the court of Versailles--the court of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI--denial reigns before giving way to alarm, which in turn degenerates into panic and chaos. Thomas spins the familiar events of the 1789 French Revolution into a compelling novel, with the central character less the famously ill-fated queen than the insular and ritualized society of the palace. The story is told by a woman looking back 30 years, to when it was her job to read books aloud to Marie Antoinette. Her status as courtier makes her the best kind of narrator--at once an insider and an observer of the royals. She describes the final days before revolution engulfs the palace with insight and surprising slices of humor. Some passages read almost like satire, as the indulged inhabitants of Versailles cling to the privileges that have defined their now-threatened lives--royals are reluctant to leave the palace without proper traveling attire, courtiers try to flee while lugging heavy possessions. Thomas' formidable skills as a researcher give the book authenticity, and her keen eye for human behavior and talent for storytelling make it sing. Karen Holt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

[S]ober, captivating, moving, and, at the end, poignant... -- Téléz
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 239 pages
  • Publisher: George Braziller Inc. (May 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807615145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807615140
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,806,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By missgrundy on July 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
...This is a wonderful, atmospheric book that in my mind really succeeded in giving a sense of the ways that the French Revolution completely took apart the aristocracy. Thomas helps the reader to understand how it must have felt to feel the very marble floors crumbling under your feet, as everything you knew is suddenly gone. It's clear, also, what a house of cards it was -- full of gold, diamonds, and mirrors, to be sure, but a house of cards nevertheless, completely dependent on the support of a vast system of nobles, retainers, servants, etc. etc. I liked the narrator very much, and felt real pity for the king and queen, even as I thought, "You brought it all on yourself." Give "Farewell, My Queen," a try.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Maribel Molyneaux on June 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it's because I read this novel in translation that I did not find it as compelling as others reviewers have. I finished the novel because I wanted to find out how the protagonist made it to Vienna when the Versailles fantasy began to collapse. But it was a slow go. In places, such as where the protagonist recalls in stunning detail a lengthy conversation between two guards about Marie Antoinette, I felt my crdulity strained that, as one of the queen's courtiers, she wasn't either beaten up or raped by these two guys. In fact, maybe it was the sexlessness of this world--with only the hint of a possible lesbian relationship with Gabrielle de Polignac--that made it finally less than riveting.
High points of the novel: the meticulous description of the most minute gradations of rank and the way they constantly underwent change.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By K. Maxwell on June 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Agathe-Sidonie Laborde was a reader to Queen Marie-Antoinette of France. Living in exile in Vienna at the age of 65 she recounts in flashback the last days of Versailles before it fell to the revolution in France.
The story is rather like watching a ship sink. A world full of people and customs that are on the brink of extinction and right up to the last minute few of them want to believe that their world is ending. Versailles and its inhabitants and centuries of customs vanish in the space of three days.
In this small novel the author brings to life for a short space the doomed world of the French aristocracy, told through the eyes of someone who lived on the fringes of their world, but still knew its inhabitants well. This is not my favourite historical novel, but it is one that is memorable for its feeling of doom and how well the author seems to have caught the lost world of France before the revolution.
Would I read this book again? At this point, I couldn't give a definite yes. I would recommend you borrow this from the library to read before buying it to see if it suits your tastes in historical novels as in many ways it differs from the "standard" history story.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Brown on October 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the way I like to read history, from the point of view of a nobody caught in the unavoidable currents of destiny. Chantal Thomas comes by her knowledge honestly having been the Director of Research at the Centre National de le Recherche Scientifique, specializing in 18th literature.
Meet Agathe Laborde who is remembering from her exile in Vienna, those fateful July days of 1789 when, in her youth, she was reader to the myopic, charismatic Marie Antoinette in her fabulous Versailles court.
FAREWELL, MY QUEEN is one of RebeccasReads highly recommended books, rich with earthy insights into & half-glimpsed intrigues of a long lost way of life where adoration of & loyalty to royalty could cost you your life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Afternoon Attic Reader on February 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This book tells the story of the last three days at Versailles (July 14-16, 1789), from the point of view of a servant, particularly a young woman whose occupation it is to read to the Queen, and in the end is asked to dress as the Duchess de Polignac while they make their escape to divert danger from the Queen's favorite. I found this story slow-moving, at times rambling, at times ruminating. Having just finished 'Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser', I found this lacking detail, but looking back, I think that was the point. The servants and many courtiers had little or no information about what was going on until it was upon them, leaving only the bewildering reflections of an intricate world falling apart at an amazing pace. It also showed the stark contrast between the few servants that remained loyal to stand by the royals and the great masses that fled to save themselves, with varying degrees of internal conflict. I'm hoping the movie version, which I have not seen yet, will better hold my interest.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Geraldine Ahearn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
Chantel Thomas paints a colorful portrait on one woman's life as turmoil erupts in Paris. The author brings the reader to the eve of revolution in 1789 as the people who reside in a miniature universe become uncaring as chaos increases. Someone wakes up the King in the dark of night, and his sleepwalking begins. The Queen attempts to runaway, but all attempts come to a complete halt. The author delivers a fascinating story as we glimpse into the past and a day-dreaming life of present time. The addicting story is compelling, history is breathtaking, and the characters light up the pages. Powerfully moving and enjoyable read from beginning to end. Highly Recommended!
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