Book Review

by Antonia Fraser

Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction
Setting: 17th-century France

2006 Historical Biography Nominee

RT Rating

Renowned royal biographer Fraser meticulously researched every aspect of the life of the Sun King, Louis XIV, exploring the customs, sexual practices (including the use of condoms), power of the Church and glittering world of Versailles. She does this through the lives of the women who shaped him. This is the mark of a top historical biographer: bringing a bygone era to life through the people, making history live and breathe on the pages.

At 34, Anne of Austria gives birth to Louis, who she considered a miracle. He's raised to believe he's godlike yet beholden to the God who
created him. But his pious mother's advice doesn't prevent him from falling
in love with the unsuitable Marie Mancini, whom he's forced to forget when he marries Marie-Therese. Though kind to his wife, Louis sates
his sexual appetite by dallying with
his sister-in-law, Henriette-Anne.

Their liaison ends when Louis becomes attracted to Louise de La Valliere, who is replaced by the
notorious, tempestuous Athenaïs, the Marquise de Montespan, who finally leaves court for a life of repentance. Near the end of his days Louis finds true love with his children's governess, Françcoise de Maintenon, with whom he lived until his death.

Louis' courtiers kept a detailed record of his affairs, listing the trysts and children born of his liaisons. Yet
he remains the Sun King, a man torn between his insatiable love of women and the ideal that a monarch was close to God and an example to his subjects. (Doubleday, Nov., 544 pp., $32.50)

Reviewed By: Kathe Robin

Publisher: Doubleday

Published: November 2006

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