About the Book:
• Publisher: The Penguin Press (June 14, 2012)
About the Author:
Francine du Plessix Gray has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker and is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, including Simone Weil, At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life, Rage and Fire, Lovers and Tyrants, and Soviet Women. She is most recently the author ofThem: A Memoir of Parents, winner of the National Book Critics Circle award for best autobiography. She lives in Connecticut.
The life story of Marie Antoinette fascinates many a lover of historical fiction. One of the many questions not completely answered throughout time is whether she had an affair with Count Axel von Fersen of Sweden. This book reads as Count von Fersen’s memoir – with some additions from his beloved sister Sophie.
Count Axel wrote a long stream of letters and kept a diary so there is quite a record of his thoughts from his lifetime. Marie Antoinette’s correspondence did not survive quite as intact so while there are tantalizing teasers as to a relationship between the two there is nothing definitive to prove that one existed. But such are the building blocks of historical fiction.
This is definitely Count von Fersen’s story and perhaps a third of it (?) encompasses his relationship with Marie Antoinette. The rest details his travels to America to help in the Revolution, a jaunt with Gustavus of Sweden, and his life after Marie Antoinette had been killed.
I still cannot decide after having read this book whether I am supposed to like Count von Fersen, despise him or just be disgusted by him. I suppose that is the sign of a good writer – letting her character speak for himself without dressing him up for current times because from all I can discern the count was a man who did not realize that his times were a changin’ as the song goes. He stuck to a code that had outlived his society and he paid a severe price for it. He also seemed to have been somewhat of a pig when it came to women and rather proud of his conquests.
So, where does that leave me?
Educated, interested in learning more, repulsed? Yes, all three of these. Ms. du Plessix Gray spares nothing with her character nor with her writing style to bring this somewhat pivotal individual to life in this book. Whether or not von Fersen slept with Marie Antoinette or not he did have a deep relationship with the royal family and was responsible for the arrangements for their almost escape from France.
I learned quite a bit about the count from this book. It was an interesting way to present it. Quite a bit of it is Fersen’s own words from his letters and diary entries. It is perhaps, though, misnamed as it is more about Fersen the man than Fersen the Queen’s lover.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of The Queen’s Lover from TLC Book Tours. Any opinions expressed are my honest opinions and were not impacted by my receipt of the free book. I received no monetary compensation for this post.