Touchstone, Jul 2004, 14.00, 233 pp.
Two decades have passed since the momentous events of the final days of the reign of King Louis XVI and his Queen Marie-Antoinette. The Queen's deputy reader, Madam Agathe-Sidonie Laborde, from the safety of her Vienna apartment looks back to the revolutionary fervor that beheaded the monarchy and recalls that final month in the summer of ‘89. Leading up to the three heated July days, the opulent aristocracy including the king refused to believe the unrest would turn violent. Instead they lived in splendor in the Versailles Palace accompanied by rats, insects, and disease as to be expected when one builds on a swamp. By the time the court accepted reality, it proved too late for most although Madam Laborde, in a desperate escape attempt knowing that anyone associated with the crown was subject to the guillotine, obviously succeeded so that she can share her memories of those days that changed the world forever.
This work of historical fiction shines quite a light on mostly Marie Antoinette in her final days, but also the rest of the French Court as the Revolution erupts. The fictional tale provides the most intimate levels of detail that history ignores (a luxurious castle overrun by vermin stunned this reviewer).
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner