Farewell, My Queen
by Chantal Thomas, translated by Moishe Black

A woman whose function it once was to read books aloud to Marie-Antoinette is haunted by the memory of her last days at the French court of Versailles, when Louis XVI's magnificent palace succumbed to the irrepressible forces of revolution. Now exiled in Vienna, Madame Agathe-Sidonie Laborde looks back twenty-one years to the legendary opulence of Versailles and, overcome with nostalgia and remorse, discovers the full measure of her fascination with the Queen she served.

Transporting us to eighteenth-century France with the skill of a consummate storyteller, Chantal Thomas meticulously re-creates the miniature universe of Versailles, brilliantly juxtaposing its beauty and its dawn-to-dusk ritual with the chaos that erupts. Her portrait of Versailles and of Marie-Antoinette is an incomparable account of the collapse of a lost world.

Chantal Thomas is Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. She is the author of The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette. This is her first novel.

Hardback, 51/2 x 81/4 in., 248 pages
ISBN 0-8076-1514-5
$22.50 (Can. $34.00)
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Read more from the
New York Times

  • From THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (August 31, 2003):
    "...delightful historical novel...Thomas is a historian specializing in 18th century France, and she knows her subject...In language both vivid and elegant, the novel also captures the mood of panic that soon had servants and soldiers felling their posts, and nobles, clergy and hangers-on looking to save their tableau vivant."

  • From THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD (August 24, 03):
    "...elegant powerful novel...dazzling imaginings...Thomas gets the tone and feel of 18th-century court uncannily right...She is a master at recognizing and providing the telling detail...It's a bravura glimpse into a time past and a dreamlike life."

  • From the starred PUBLISHERS WEEKLY review (June 9, 2003):
    "...The story of Marie-Antoinette's final days is well known, so the delights of this rendition lie in the details. [The main character] Laborde is a keen observer of the queen's moods and appearance, and her attempts to cheer her mistress with well-chosen passages give her story extra depth. Like the tiny enamel painting of Marie-Antoinette's bright blue eyes that inspires Laborde's reminiscences, this is a cunning, gemlike miniature."

  • From the starred BOOKLIST review (May 15, 2003):
    "...[The main character's] status as courtier makes her the best kind of narrator—at once an insider and an observer of the royals. She describes the final days before the revolution engulfs the palace with insight and surprising slices of humour....Thomas's formidable skills as a researcher give the book authenticity, and her keen eye for human behavior and talent for storytelling make it sing."