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The Valley Of Heaven And Hell: Cycling In The Shadow Of Marie Antoinette [Kindle Edition]

Susie Kelly
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $2.99
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Book Description

A quirky, hilarious and endearing mix of personal travel adventure and French history.

Join Susie as she embarks on a marathon bike ride through a little-known area of northern France full of history and flowing with champagne. Susie has already walked 500 miles across France (Best Foot Forward) and driven its circumference (Travels With Tinkerbelle), but cyclist she is not. By suggesting an electric bicycle that will get her through the uphill slogs, her husband persuades her that travelling on two wheels is by far the best way to see the little-known, virtually undocumented part of France they plan to explore. And so, with not a few mishaps and misgivings, it turns out.

Susie’s cycling adventure follows the route taken by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette on their abortive escape from the French Revolution and their journey back to their executions. After a hair-raising journey through Paris that nearly ends in her own execution by traffic, she finds an area of calm waterways and tranquil countryside bursting with history. Idyllic territory for cyclists. From Paris and Versailles, she wobbles on to the vineyards and champagne cellars of Epernay and Reims, then through the Marne valley, the scene of unimaginable horror and devastation during World War 1. In three weeks Susie and Terry cycle 500 miles, dining sometimes in luxury and often on weird makeshift meals in their tent. Along the way there are traumas, epiphanies, occasional matrimonial disagreements and the odd glass of champagne.

“There are a handful of authors who achieve that elusive trick of making you laugh out loud. For me it’s James Herriot, Bill Bryson and Susie Kelly.” French Entrée Magazine

"This book manages to combine history, humor and the best of travel writing all in one." US Amazon Rev

“This was a trip I enjoyed taking through Susie Kelly’s eyes, both for what I learned about the area of France she traveled, and the history involved. My backside and the muscles in my legs were much happier doing it this way, too.” Big Al’s Books & Pals

“A wonderful combination of travel memoir, funny anecdotes with the added bonus of weaving throughout an easily digestible history lesson.” UK Amazon Rev

“This is a book I could read again and again.” US Amazon Rev

"As someone who enjoys reading about travel on foot or bicycle I can say its as good as any I've read and is a massively entertaining and satisfying read." US Amazon Rev

"When it's funny it's laugh-out-loud funny, and when it's sad it is heart-breaking." UK Amazon Rev

"This book manages to combine history, humor & the best of travel writing all in one." US Amazon Rev

"Travel humor that makes you cry as well. Quite something!" US Amazon Rev

"Susie rides again! Susie has done it again. This is a thoroughly entertaining read combining self deprecating honest comments with lesser known historical tales and anecdotes." UK Amazon Rev

Just loved it! In the first chapter I thought the pace was so entertaining and interesting that it would not be possible for the book to keep it up...but it does. Fun and full of detail. US Amazon Rev.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1369 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Blackbird Digital Books (March 22, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0096Q8T5M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,237 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By TicToc
Article first published as Book Review: The Valley of Heaven and Hell: Cycling in the Shadow of Marie-Antoinette by Susie Kelly on Blogcritics.

Imagine being on vacation and spending the time cycling through France. In The Valley of Heaven and Hell-Cycling in the Shadow of Marie-Antoinette by Susie Kelly, she introduces us to both the beauty and history of this European country just a bit smaller in scale than the state of Texas. Kelly writes a heartwarming and challenging story of her arrival into the art of cycling, keeping the story entertaining and mostly lighthearted. She keeps up an amazing dialogue along the path she and her husband have chosen which seem to parallel that traveled during the final days of Marie-Antoinette and her Husband King Louis XVI as they tried to make their escape during the French Revolution.

The book is littered with known facts in this final flight as well as many of the other venues of historical significance that happened in this small area that may have had a hand in the way the world has changed over the centuries. We feel the charm though the names such as Versailles, La Villette, the Tuileries and Montmedy. Just the enunciation of the words brings to mind the chic and trendy French countryside. Americans too have been involved in many of the miseries that seem to embody some of the history of the area by acting as allies during the wars. France is full of memorials and places of special significance throughout erected in the effort to memorialize those that gave their lives for others.

As Kelly and her husband Terry take their tour she keeps us entertained with the different antics of the trip and pokes a great deal of fun at herself.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely treat for any reader April 3, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Susie Kelly has written a most delightful book. As the title reveals, it is both a travel adventure and a glance at the life and death of France's Queen Marie Antoinette.

Ms Kelly, already the author of three successful non-fiction books, takes the reader on a bicycle trip from the chateau of King Louis 16 and his wife Marie Antoinette in Versailles, to and through Paris and then along the road the soon-to-be-guillotined monarch and his wife had taken in a desperate effort to escape their fate. By the time you will reach the end of the book, you would not only have shared Marie Antoinette's joys and sorrows, but so too those of the cycling Ms Kelly and her husband Terry.

Ms Kelly tells a story really well. She makes us laugh with her, sip champagne with her, feel her frustration when pelted with rain, enjoy a gourmet dish with her, and when she feels sorry for Marie Antoinette, so do we.

I highly recommend `The Valley of Heaven and Hell'. It is a lovely treat for any reader.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Valley of Heaven and Hell March 12, 2012
By BigAl
Format:Kindle Edition
One of my favorite non-fiction genres is the travel narrative. They aren't an efficient way for planning a trip. Guidebooks are much better for that kind of detail. But for the armchair traveler looking for a vicarious experience, or to get the flavor of an area before visiting, they're perfect. The travel narrative needs everything any other story has. A rote recitation of what the author did isn't enough. To create a readable story out of the author's experience, there needs to be conflict, to hold the reader's attention, and an overriding theme. There are many options to do this.

The subtitle, "Cycling in the Shadow of Marie-Antoinette," gives a clue to how this book deals with the issue. The trip covers the route taken by Marie-Antoinette and her family in first trying to escape France and the route used after their capture to return them to Paris. Interwoven with the actual travel, as Kelly and her husband cycle the route and visit sites along the way, is historical background. Buried within the story of Kelly's trip, which has plenty of conflict of its own, is a mini-biography of the French Monarch, which is full of conflict while providing the theme.

This approach, of combining history in a travel lesson, is one I've seen before and like. Just as history can come alive when you travel to historical sites, doing it by proxy can do the same. If you're like me, your knowledge doesn't go much beyond what you learned about Marie-Antoinette and the French Revolution while reading "A Tale of Two Cities" years ago in school. It turns out that the whole "let them eat cake" thing was a small and possibly misleading part of the story.

While Marie-Antoinette provides a story, there is also the story thread of the actual trip.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who knew a cycling adventure May 22, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
could be this much fun? It helps that the author is struggling to make it through this adventure (which I can relate to). This is really a perfect blend of the history of Marie Antionette's final journey and a modern couple retracing their steps by bicycle and electric bicycle. It almost makes me want to take up a cycling adventure of my own... almost... Entertaining non-fiction read!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A history book rather than cycling January 6, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Her first book was excellent. I was very disappointed in this book in fact I did not finish it. I was looking forward to the trials and tribulations of this cycling trip. What there was is a history book rather than a cycling, story or tourist book, all of which I have read before.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars not what I expected, but good
Ms Kelly writes very well and is able to pull up bits of history to make this a fine book. None of the things I expected from a cycle travel book were there, and most of what I... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Thomas E. Bloom
5.0 out of 5 stars very enjoyable
I am heading to live in France beginning next year and am inspired by the travels on bike - which is my favorite mode of transportation. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bernadette
5.0 out of 5 stars Feeling the Past as if you were there.
Susie writes in amazing detail of her and her husband's trip through France by bicycle, following in the steps of Marie_Antonette and her husband the king. Read more
Published 2 months ago by spdypat
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
For those who travel and have a love of French history this is the best read so far. A must read
Published 3 months ago by J. A. Huckaby
5.0 out of 5 stars I love Susie Kelly's books
I love Susie Kelly's books. I can't put them down. I have read them all. She has a unique, engaging writing style that brings you into the story. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Linda Gostinger
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Sorry I can't say too much positive here.
Published 6 months ago by John L. Popp
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
too much history of Marie Antoinette. If you aren't fascinated by her life, don't buy this book
Published 6 months ago by Joan
5.0 out of 5 stars I ENJOYED THIS LITTLE TALE
This has been an eye opening book for me. This is not one of Rick Steve's famous travels around France, no, this is a story for people like you and me,that are just regular... Read more
Published 7 months ago by FFI Guy
5.0 out of 5 stars I thoroughly enjoyed this book
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As a student in college, many, many years ago, majoring in French, I lived with a family in the French-speaking part of Belgium, then went on a... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Judith Berson
3.0 out of 5 stars Susie finds interesting people and places and encapsulates the telling...
Its very interesting as a means of learning about France. Susie finds interesting people and places and encapsulates the telling very well without boring us with unnecessary... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Gai Berzins
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More About the Author

Susie Kelly was born in grey post-war London, and spent much of her childhood and young adulthood in the beautiful country of Kenya.

She now lives in south-west France with a menagerie of assorted animals, and is passionate about animal welfare.

Her first book "Best Foot Forward" was published by Transworld Publishers in 2003, followed by "Two Steps Backward" in 2004, and "A Perfect Circle" in 2006.

Since 2011 Susie's books have been published by Blackbird Digital Books, whose theme is strong, adventurous women living life to the full. Blackbird Digital Book people love birds and animals, travel, history, romance, natural health and environment, resourcefulness, humour, the surreal and magic.

If her house caught fire and she could only save three things (apart from her animals, of course), they would be courage, compassion and a sense of humour.

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