“Those who aim at great deeds must also suffer greatly.”
Plutarch, quoted in Ribbons of Scarlet
A novel written by a committee? Wow! I was intrigued. It turns out that is not how this book was done. Each character’s story was written by an individual author. I know too little about French history, especially Royal French history beyond that famous sound byte “Let them eat cake” and that women went all fangirl around the young Marquis de Lafayette–the hero of the American Revolution. In short, this book went straight to the top of my TBR. And I’m so glad it did.
The Philosopher, the Revolutionary, the Princess, the Politician, the Assasin, and the Beauty were all women ahead of their time. The valued the rights of women, liberation for women from home and hearth and, especially, from the whims of husband and government. Each woman is brought to life by a different author though the stories intermingle the women in the natural course of the story. It is a novel–not a collection of short stories and it works beautifully.
First, do not skip Alison Pataki’s excellent Foreward. It seems others share my pet peeve of characters having views too far ahead of their time. Pataki explains the historical fact of the women and their attitudes having lead to some of the most significant changes in the revolution being led by such women.
Time and again as I listened to the audiobook version I was reminded of today–#metoo is here over and over again. So, too, is a glass ceiling, unequal parenting, unequal education, and unequal societal expectations. It’s all in this majestic novel.
As to the women themselves, I was most taken by the first–the philosopher with the Princess has my runer-up. I loved the audacity of Sophie de Grouchy who negotiated her own marriage on her own terms and then found love. I’m well-known on this blog to be a sucker for a sincere older man–younger woman romance and this one was wonderful. Princess Elizabeth, the King’s sister, showed the humanity of the royal family. In spite of singling these two out, all six women were absolutely real and absolutely fascinating to me.
This may be the best historical novel of the year. I cannot wait to see what the authors all get up to next!