Atria Books, March 21, 2017.
The Enemies of Versailles is the final novel of the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, which follows the life of King Louis XV of France through the eyes of the women he loves and lusts after – from the Nesle sisters to the Marquise de Pompadour and finally the Comtesse du Barry. Although each consecutive book tells us more about the King and the tumultuous history of France, the novels also work well as standalones.
In this novel, the focus is on young Jeanne Becu, a girl of humble birth who uses her great beauty to rise above the streets of Paris and into the Palace of Versailles. King Louis is now much older and very jaded, but he falls for the youthful energy of Jeanne, the Comtesse du Barry. However, other members of the royal family are not so enamoured with the newest mistress of Versailles – the princesses are now grown up, and are completely scandalized by their father’s latest lover. It was one thing to tolerate the bourgeois Marquise de Pompadour, but the Comtesse is a commoner from a family of prostitutes.
The princesses are led by the very prim and proper Madame Adelaide, who is horrified by her father’s lowborn mistress. She goads her sisters into taking her side, and even the young Marie Antoinette is brought into the family fight. However, as the revolution rises outside the palace gates, everyone in the royal family must work together in an ill-fated attempt to survive.
Christie once again adds new elements to the genre of historical fiction – she explores the intricacies of 18th century French political intrigue, while remaining witty and modern in tone. This was a male-dominated period of history, and it is interesting to see it being revisited from a female perspective. Although Marie Antoinette is a popular fictionalized character, it’s nice to see some other points of view as well – specifically, Madame Adelaide and the Comtesse du Barry, who alternate the narration of this novel. However, I did find the different voices to be a bit too similar, even in comparison to the earlier novels in the series.
King Louis obviously preferred the charms of his various mistresses to the actual work of ruling France. He leaves the hard work to his advisors, who all put their own ambitions before the wellbeing of the country – clearly a major contributing factor to the French Revolution. Because of the tumultuous historical setting, this novel is probably the most interesting of the series plot-wise – but I just did not enjoy it as much as the other two. It is still a great piece of historical fiction, but I just felt that the first in the series was the strongest. Regardless, I will be looking forward to whatever Christie decides to write next.
I received this book from Atria Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.