This book set in the magnificient court of Louis XV is a wonderfully detailed, descriptive story.
On the one side it deals with the actual happenings of the life and times of Louis XV in all its glory. This includes not just the history and happenings of the Court but the personality and character of Louis XV as a man. On the other side we have the saga of the Nesle family - starting with the children as infants and ending with them as women.
It is hard to imagine the story of the Nesle sisters being true but it is! that one man, could manage to inveigle four out of five sisters to his bed, keep them as mistresses for a very long period of time, managing two of them at one time and that the sisters themselves were agreeable with such an arrangement naturally led to a very unusual story.
The book deals with human nature in all its forms - avarice, pleasure, lust, envy and the necessary heartbreak that would follow. The manner in which each sister handles her emotions is different, Louise pretends to all and sundry that everything including her marriage is fine, Marie Anne wants to flaunt her power and obtain as much as possible in contrast to Louise, then there is Diane who is a wee bit simple one feels in some ways and very clever in others, and Pauline who was very ambitious and disliked even by the sisters for her over riding ways. Each brings their own story to the party so that the whole becomes an unbelievable work of historical fiction.
We also see how Louis XV as a King was someone who was influenced by the courtiers around him mainly Fleury and Richelieu. How decision making was never one of his strong points, a rather weak man who was led by the nose almost to do exactly what his advisors felt was best. Someone who was passionate about hunting above all else and was very indifferent to the needs of the common man. This was a striking feature of the time and the attitude of the aristocracy to the common peasant was unbelievable. That people could cocoon themselves so much into their own little world and not be aware of the needs and feelings of others was something that had to be read to be believed. That this would lead to a revolution was not unimaginable at all. That it happened later rather than sooner is the thing I found difficult to understand.
I understand that this is the first in a trilogy and if one likes history, this has to be one of those must reads.
The author has brought the court of Louis XV so much to life that reading this book was an absolute treat.
The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Atria Books.