Monsieur Montespan by Jean Teule
|Monsieur Montespan by Jean Teule|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: While it's only for the strong of stomach due to vivid descriptions and one particularly upsetting scene, this tragicomic romance is an enjoyable read in the main.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 302||Date: February 2011|
|Publisher: Gallic Books|
The Marquis de Montespan is totally in love with his new wife Athénaïs and she with him, so much so that when she becomes a lady in waiting at the palace of Versailles, she begs her husband to remove her in case she falls for the charms of the famous Sun King. The Marquis refuses because of the prestige and fortune her position brings them – but it's a decision he quickly regrets, as Louis XIV indeed manages to cuckold him. With all of France talking about the new woman in the king's life, Montespan is expected to take the rewards offered to him in exchange for his wife and leave the couple alone. But many years before the French Revolution, instead he takes the unprecedented step of standing up to the king, ignoring his offers and proclaiming his cuckoldry by adding horns to his coat of arms. Can the man who's become a figure of fun throughout the country win back his wife?
This is a really difficult book for me to review because I found most of it very enjoyable although thought that in parts there was predominance of sex and excrement – thankfully not at the same time! - which didn't do much for me. In particular a scene where two women defecate into their hands and hurl it at the Marquis in the theatre put me off somewhat, but even that pales into comparison with an event towards the end that I absolutely hated. I'll avoid details as it would class as a fairly major spoiler but please be warned that you need a rather strong stomach given that scene especially.
That said, I definitely enjoyed the vast majority of the book and thought that Teule captured the time period brilliantly and the contrast between the obscene wealth of Louis XIV and the squalor of the central figure as he became more and more heartbroken and lost his wealth. Having read a few articles about the real life Marquis de Montespan Teule seems to have captured his character very well and he's a deeply sympathetic figure although he's also a humorous one. The supporting cast is perhaps less well-drawn; for one I never really felt that the Marquise was a wonderful catch worth her husband going to all this trouble for, although the king's brief appearances are entertaining and some of Montespan's servants are fairly well fleshed out.
Mild recommendation to those interested in the period or in bawdy stories of unrequited – make that formerly requited – love, with that warning about needing to not be easily shocked. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: For more historical romance I loved Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien.
You can read more book reviews or buy Monsieur Montespan by Jean Teule at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Monsieur Montespan by Jean Teule at Amazon.com.
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