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The Queen's Lover: A Novel Hardcover – June 14, 2012
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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Brush up on your knowledge of Marie Antoinette’s royal court and the history that inspired The Queen’s Lover in this Amazon exclusive quiz.
Where was Marie Antoinette born?
What was Axel von Fersen’s nickname?
- Le Comte Suedois
- Le beau Fersen
What is the name of Fersen’s sister, and co-narrator of The Queen’s Lover?
- Sophia Magdalena
What was Marie Antoinette’s full name?
- Marie-Therese Antoinette
- Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna
- Archduchess Marie Antoinette of Austria
- Maria Antonia Teresa
Where did Marie Antoinette and Axel von Fersen meet?
- The Paris opera
- The Swedish court
- The court of Joseph II, Marie Antoinette’s brother
At what age did Marie Antoinette meet Axel von Fersen?
In which 18th century war did Fersen fight in?
- Russo-Turkish War
- American Revolution
- Anglo-Spanish War
- Russo-Persian War
Where did Marie Antoinette spend her last few weeks?
- La Conciergerie
- The Bastille
- The Louvre
- La Force Prison
Which of Marie Antoinette’s children was reputed to be fathered by Fersen?
- Marie Therese
- Louis Joseph
- Princess Sophie
What did Marie Antoinette stipulate be included in the plans of the ill-fated flight to Varennes?
- Her children’s favorite snacks
- Her husband’s favorite book of poems
- Her hairdresser
- The family’s heirloom jewelry
Once the French Revolution started and royal mail was being intercepted, how did Marie Antoinette and Fersen communicate with each other?
- Secret code embedded in the text of well-known books
- Spoken messages delivered through special couriers
- Letters in invisible ink
- They couldn’t communicate once the revolution started
Who said “let them eat cake?”
- Marie Antoinette
- Maria Theresa
- Joséphine de Beauharnais
How long did Marie Antoinette’s love affair with von Fersen last?
- Five years
- Ten years
- Fifteen years
- Nineteen years
Answers: 1-a; 2-d; 3-a; 4-b; 5-b; 6-d; 7-b; 8-a; 9-c; 10-c; 11-c; 12-b; 13-d
A Washington Post 2012 Notable Work of Fiction
“Deeply intelligent…spellbinding… If you liked Antonia Fraser’s Marie Antoinette or Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall — if you admired Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s close lens in The General in His Labyrinth — you will be richly rewarded by du Plessix Gray’s amalgam of history and drama. Read it for its insights on Versailles; read it for its eye-opening glimpses into an equally venal Stockholm. But read it, when all is said and done, for its heartbreakingly wistful romance."—Marie Arana, The Washington Post
“The voice of history rises up out of the pages of [this] persuasive new novel. [A] lively, incredibly readable, definitely R-rated version of the life and death of Marie Antoinette.” – Alan Cheuse, NPR
“Ms. Gray has created fully developed, flawed and complex characters in a way that would probably not have been possible within the confines of biography. [She] conjures up a world she knows well, in riveting detail. [The Queen’s Lover is] a feat of research and imagination.”—Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal
“Don’t remember anything about the French Revolution from high school? This is one of those books where you’ll learn – or relearn – history effortlessly, as du Plessix Gray spins the affair of Marie Antoinette and a Swedish count into riveting drama.” – Entertainment Weekly
“[A] triumph of scholarship and storytelling... a remarkable book.”—Daily Beast
“Set against the backdrop of royal opulence and revolution, du Plessix Gray’s richly detailed chronicle of love and loss provides startling insight into the complex and tragic inner life of the iconic and controversial French queen Marie Antoinette.”
—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War
“The story of the strange, then sad, then finally tragic life of Marie Antoinette has been told many times, but never with more humane feeling and historical point than Francine du Plessix Gray does in her new novel. Seen from the startling point of view of the Queen’s Swedish lover, Count Axel von Fersen, The Queen’s Lover makes a familiar story newly poignant, and, without ever being pedantic, places that story in a broader context of European politics, too often missed.”
—Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon
“The Queen’s Lover is a thrilling book. It has everything—suspense, intrigue, love, luxury, tragedy, and romantic and familial love. It tells a familiar story from a new point of view.”
—Edmund White, author of Jack Holmes and His Friend
“In The Queen’s Lover, Francine du Plessix Gray brings her peerless narrative gifts to bear on one of history’s all-time greatest love stories: the secret romance between Marie Antoinette and Count Axel von Fersen. Set against the backdrop of the French monarchy’s cataclysmic fall, the affair between the doomed queen and the dashing Swede is at once an achingly tender tale of two lovers and a tragic story of unspeakably brutal, broad-based societal change. With a historian’s eye for evocative contextual detail and a novelist’s ear for the lyricism of ‘le grand amour,’ Gray weaves an unforgettable portrait of a couple whose lives were transfigured by love . . . and shattered by revolution.”
—Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
Top customer reviews
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Because of the kind of man he is, how can his life follow any other course but that of intrigue and adventure? Francine du Plessix Gray does great service to the reader when refusing to withhold from Fersen’s character his thoughts, feelings and words. Her research enables her to inform readers of Fersen's mindset, temperament and innermost feelings without hiding behind the childish conventions of stuffy puritanism that would otherwise conceal him from us.
History, including historical fiction, need not be sanitized for today’s sophisticated readers, who have certainly been around the block more than once. History is about men and women doing things, period. The children’s section might better serve puritanical tastes. A reader of history or historical fiction reads for a sense of “how it was,” rather than “how he wishes it was”. Most read history (including historical fiction) to acquaint themselves with the period and actors on the stage of life’s events. This book offers that and more. Here we have the personality of those actors and how they react as seen through their actual letters and diary entries.
As I finished reading this book, I realized that I didn’t want it end. I now see that I share something with those puritanical readers – I wanted the book to continue on to a happy ending. This feeling is new to me because I do not become attached to historical personalities. I suspect that it has something to do with the desperate state of affairs of the period and of a man trying to act for good, while finding every route blocked except one, which had to be taken.
My compliments to Francine du Plessix Gray for a compelling, and at times, white-knuckle insider view of a man caught in the middle of the French Revolution.
Alas, I was SOO wrong. The book calls itself a novel, but does very little in the way of making the story interesting. Frankly, it's mostly a rehash of many of the facts you can get from other non-fiction books, with very little in the way of imagination thrown in. She tells us the facts, but no heart, no understanding of why this was a great love affair.
An example: Fersen declares that Marie Antoinette is the One, the beloved; yet he has sex with the wife of one of his friends on a regular basis, in fact going from an assignation with Marie straight to this other woman's bed. This is fact; it happened. But why? How can a man who considers himself in love with one woman jump from her bed to another's? It's jarring (and it always has been for me). So I hoped the author would make it more understandable, have some insight. Nope. She basically has Fersen say, "Yes, I'm a cad, I like sex, so there you have it." That's a cop-out; surely the author of a novel could come up with something better.
If this were touted as a non-fiction account of Fersen's life, I would accept that. But it's a novel. There are no insights, no new slants, nothing to make you want to find out more about this man and his great love. It was a tremendous disappointment.
In fact, the book is primarily about the life and political and other proclivities of Fersen, but despite what appears to have been a most interesting life, he comes across as an insufferable, priggish bore who was terribly impressed with himself, his virtue, his political savvy, his great achievements, his sexual appetites and abilities, and so on. The portions that come from his sister's diaries don't help in this respect; she comes across a bit better (i.e., more human) than her brother, but she's so much in awe of him that she cannot provide any interesting perspectives either.
I found some other things in the book rather odd. First and foremost, the book couldn't decide if it was fact or fiction, and ended up including the less "attractive" aspects of both. I also found it odd that Ms. Du Plessix Gray included some sexually explicit/anatomical discussions. I almost wonder if she felt it necessary to titillate what was otherwise a "bald and unconvincing narrative" (I hope I got that quote right).
All in all, not very impressive. I gave it three stars, but I was probably too kind.