The Sisters of Versailles
by Sally Christie
published by Atria Books
I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
I like a fun historical fiction and that is exactly what this was. This book, which was a very quick read, reminded me a little of Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. The Sisters of Versailles takes place in the French Court of Louis XV in the early 18th Century. It is based on the real life relationship between Louis and the Nesle sisters- Louise, Pauline, Diane, Marie-ann, and Hortense. Four of the five sisters became Louis’ mistress.
This story, which is the first in what is to be a trilogy, is told in the voices of the five Nesle sisters. The first sister to come to court at Versailles is Louise. She is married to a cousin, very unhappily. At Versailles, she is a lady for the queen. Through the machinations of those closest to the King, Louise is chosen to become Louis’ mistress. A few years later, she invites her sister Pauline to visit her, unwisely it turns out, since Pauline quick replaces her site in Louis’ heart and bed. Eventually, all the sisters except Hortense- who is actually happily married- become a lover to the king.
This was a fun book that I was able to read rather quickly. I of course had to look up the actual history of the relationship between Louis and the sisters, and BAM- all true. Four out of five of them were his “official” mistress. I couldn’t believe it. What was more incredible was the fact that Pauline made the King wait until she was married before she would sleep with him. It was more acceptable if she was married and a part of the court. It turns out the French people were not really thrilled by the relationships, many calling it incest. This was a fun book and I am looking forward to reading the next two installments.
Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.
Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne, four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.
Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot – and women – forward. The King’s scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters:sweet, naive Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne, will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.
In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie’s stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood; of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.