I could not believe it that this book was available so soon in the Carnegie library. Best sellers take a while to reach this library. So when I saw it I grabbed it even though it was rather a big tome!
Described as a reinvention of the Rapunzel fairy tale, it deals with one of the oldest story tellers of this story Charlotte Rose de la Force. This is a story of three people - we have the tragic figure in the tower Margherita alias Rapunzel, the wicked witch Selena who needs young virgin women to perpetuate her youthfulness and of course the teller of the tale Charlotte Rose.
However the story is not just about the girl in the tower and how she escapes it but about the teller Charlotte Rose. Her escapades in the French court (many and varied) and how she is banished to a convent which she accepts with very bad grace until she finally realises the futility of trying to escape the anger of a king who banished her from his court. It is sad listening to Charlotte Rose's story itself. Her total dependence on the men in her family who failed to protect her and then threw her to the wolves in the Court. The absolute authority of the King in all matters and how many women languished in convents to die forgotton there was unimaginable. Life in the convent was hard and for a woman of beauty, glamour and grace it would have been doubly hard, made harder by the bitterness and vindictive of her fellow nuns. We also have stories of black magic, lust and obsession for youth on the part of the Wicked Witch Selena.
There is a lot of detail in this book - the debauchery and many excesses of the court in France, the duplicity and arrogance of the King, the power and influence that the mistresses of the King had over everyone and everything in France and then we go backstage to the wheeling and dealing of the convents who accepted dowries for their nuns, the poverty of the time ignored by almost all, the violence of the time taken for granted as part and parcel of society and the overwhelming helplessness of the Plague when it comes.
A fascinating story, though tough to read in one go. I am just glad I got it this time in Melbourne.