Le Petit Trianon

Petit Trianon is a small château located on the grounds of Versailles in France. It was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel by the order of Louis XV for his long-term mistress, Madame de Pompadour, and was constructed between 1762-1768.

Madame de Pompadour died 4 years before its completion, and it was subsequently occupied by her successor, Madame du Barry. Upon his accession to the throne in 1774, the 20-year-old Louis XVI gave the château and its surrounding park to his 19-year-old Queen Marie Antoinette for her exclusive use and enjoyment.

The château of the Petit Trianon is a celebrated example of the transition from the Rococo style of the earlier part of the 18th century, to the more sober and refined, Neoclassical style of the 1760's and onward. The exterior of the château is simple and elegant, architecturally correct, and highly original. Essentially an exercise on a cube, the Petit Trianon attracts interest by virtue of its four facades, each thoughtfully designed according to that part of the estate it would face. The Corinthian order predominates, with two detached and two semi-detached pillars on the side of the formal French garden, and pilasters facing both the courtyard and the area once occupied by Louis XV's greenhouses. Overlooking the former botanical garden of the king, the remaining facade was left bare. The subtle use of steps compensates for the differences in level of the château's inclined location.

Marie Antoinette would come to the Petit Trianon not only to escape the formality of court life, but also to shake off the burden of her royal responsibilities. All was "de par la Reine" (by order of the Queen), none were permitted to enter the property without the Queen's express permission (not even, it was said, Louis XVI). Such exclusivity alienated the court nobility since only the queen's "inner circle" (including the Princess de Lamballe, and Gabrielle de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac) were invited.

A house of intimacy and of pleasure, the building was designed to require as little interaction between guests and servants as possible. To that end, the table in the salles à manger was conceived to be mobile, mechanically lowered and raised through the floorboards so that the servants below could set places sight unseen. The tables were never built, but the delineation for the mechanical apparatus can still be seen from the foundation.

Within the queen's apartment, one discerns Marie Antoinette's incessant need for privacy: the decor of her boudoir displays an inventiveness unique to the age, featuring mirrored panels that, by the simple turning of a crank, can be raised or lowered to obscure the windows. Her bedroom, although simple, is also elegant, provided with furniture from Georges Jacob and Jean Henri Riesener. The wallpaper was painted by Jean-Baptiste Pillement.

July Book Blowout!

Blue Archipelago is hosting her first BOOK BLOWOUT and it looks fun and easy!

How do I join in the fun?

  • You can sign up any time between today and July 14 - just because I’m a bit slow to announce this!
  • To join you need to post about the Book Blowout on your blog - and set yourself a target number of books you will try to read - go on challenge yourself! (Please note: If you do not have a blog I am perfectly happy for you to post your target in the comments below - and then the list of books in the wrap-up post in August)
  • Use the Mr Linky below to link to that post so we can all see how many books you’re taking on in the Blowout
  • Post a list of the books you managed to read by the deadline of August 7 to complete the challenge

What rules do I need to know?

  • Only books read between July 1 and July 31 count towards the challenge
  • You can include re-reads - as long as they are read within the month of July
  • Books you abandon will only count as half a book
  • If you read to your children you can include all books which have more than 100 pages
  • You can include up to two graphic novels
  • You can include up to two audio books - (if you have a visual impairment that prevents you from reading then you can use just audio books for the challenge)
  • Books you read for other challenges are eligible - use this as an opportunity to catch up!
  • If you start a book before July 1 and then finish it during the month of July then you can count is as half a book
How many books will you read?

I am averaging about 5 books per month, but most have been 800-1100 pagers. So, my goal is 8 books in July!!

The Palace of Versailles

One of the things I love about reading historical fiction is the learning aspect. So, when I'm reading about a specific time and place I like to roam the internet, looking at pictures and reading more information on the places that I visit in my reading travels. Today, I am in Versailles with a young King Louis XV.

In 1624, Louis XIII, the king of France, began the building of a modest hunting lodge in the small village of Versailles. Well, as modest a lodge as one could expect from a French King. By moving the royal court and the seat of the French government, Louis XIV hoped to gain greater control of the government from the nobility, and to distance himself from the population of Paris.

Here are some interesting facts about Versailles:
  • Built chiefly by Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart during the last half of the 17th century.
  • There are over 700 rooms housing up to 20, 000 nobleman before King Louis 16th was overthrown.
  • World War I was ended here with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • Housed all the Kings of France from 1682 until 1790
  • In 1685, 36 000 people and 6 000 horses were working on the construction of the 500 meters long palace which took altogether 50 years.
  • About 37,000 acres of land were cleared to make room for tree-lined terraces and flower plants.
  • The gardens had 1,400 fountains, set in a formal pattern of lawns and walks adjacent to the mile-long Grand Canal. The 240-foot-long Hall of Mirrors was lit by 3,000 candles.
  • Louis XIV: (1638 - 1715) "The Sun King" was the longest ruling monarch in European history ruling as absolute monarch from 1643-1715.
  • The Creation of the World Clock was originally intended for a ruler in India, but after seeing the beauty of it, Louis changed his mind and kept it for himself

Review: Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen

Book Synopsis:

A bride at fifteen, widowed at the tender age of twenty, Barbara, Countess Devane, embarks for colonial Virginia financially ruined by the death of her husband in scandalous circumstances. Dressed in mourning as is proper for a woman, she is patronizingly described as a “fragile black butterfly,” but the fragility is deceiving. She makes a place for herself in the new world, takes lovers and friends across political divides, and questions the established traditions of slavery. Facing enemies she never suspected, she must return to England and deal face to face with the problems created by her husband, who haunts her even in death. Back in London, she quickly finds herself pulled into Jacobite plotting, and the treachery of powerful men suddenly threatens her family, her friends—and a new love.

Now Face to Face sweeps readers from eighteenth-century America to London and brings both worlds to vivid life. It is a magnificent evocation of an era, from the plantations of Virginia to Hanoverian England.

For me, with movies, the sequels are never better than the original. In my opinion, the same can be said for Now Face to Face, which is the sequel for Through a Glass Darkly. Not to say that I did not enjoy it and am not happy that I read it, but it wasn’t quite up there with the TAGD.
After the death of her husband, Barbara is beside herself with grief. Her grandmother, the Duchess of Tamworth, offers her the chance to go to Colonial Virginia to check out her newly acquired tobacco plantation. We follow Barbara to the new world where she learns all she can about the tobacco farming and we get to meet some new and interesting characters, my favorite being Colonel Perry. Barbara eventually returns to England after receiving some letters from back home that there are new adventures afoot. She returns to England and finds herself in the midst of Jacobite investigations.
I think I would have liked this book more had it not been for the ending. The end scene was about one of supporting characters, not Barbara. In turn, I did not have that sense of “closure” so to say. I always like how a book wraps up everything nice and neat for you at the end. And after finishing the book, you walk away content, knowing your new friend will be well. I didn’t have that with this and it was a little disappointing.

Another thing that bothered me was that there were a lot of things not followed up on or worked out…a lot of open issues…which leads me to believe that that there may be another sequel?!
Overall: 4/5
Song: Alive by Pearl Jam
More wisdom from the Duchess of Tamworth: “Keep one’s eyes upon the goal desired, not upon the delays and impediments”

Review: Through A Glass Darkly

This book had been on my TBR pile for quite some time before I plucked it off my shelf and boy, am I glad that I did! This is one of the books that when you read it, you could just kick yourself in the shin for not reading it sooner! I LOVE drama and this book did not disappoint.

Through a Glass Darkly is a novel about Barbara Alderley and is set in England and France in the early 18th century. Barbara and her siblings were raised by her grandmother, the Duchess of Tamworth. Her mother, Diana, being too selfish and caught up in her own drama to worry about the children she bore and her father has just left the family, taking the money with him.
When Barbara’s mother informs her that plans are in motion for Barbara to wed Roger Montgeoffrey, she cannot contain herself, to her mother’s surprise. Roger was an old friend of her grandfather’s that she has been secretly in love with since she was younger. What Barbara does not know is that she is part of a deal her mother has concocted.
The story goes on to follow Barbara as she moves to London and marries Roger. She quickly grows up when surrounded by the deception and cruelty of the English and French courts.
I really enjoyed this novel. The characters were well-developed and easy to like, although they had their own faults (but that’s what makes them real). Koen paints a very pretty picture through her words and you as the reader feel like you are right there with Barbara through all of her ups and downs. What was interesting to me was watching as Barbara tried to stay true to herself and her beliefs amidst the licentiousness of court. The love between Barbara and Roger was beautifully written, so much so, that you could feel it in your heart. One word of caution: have plenty of tissues ready when you are near the end (and if you do cry, then do in a separate room as your husband or he will more than likely make fun of you, like mine).

Bottom line: I highly recommend this book to all historical fiction fans!
Song: Torch by Alanis Morissette
Favorite lines:
When you can no longer taste the divine nectar of life, when love no longer exists, then life is death.

Never run away from the truth because you carry it on your shoulder and someday it will put its ugly face into yours and say, “Boo”.
Forgiveness: It is never done well in little bits and dabs. Do it all at once and never look back, or do not do it at all.
Change is an easy thing to decide and a difficult thing to do. It is the day-to-day struggle of it that defeats people. Do not despair if old ways look good to you. Despair only if you fall into them too often.
Overall: 5/5

Review: The Borgia Bride

Book Description:

Vivacious Sancha of Aragon arrives in Rome newly wed to a member of the notorious Borgia dynasty. Surrounded by the city's opulence and political corruption, she befriends her glamorous and deceitful sister-in-law, Lucrezia, whose jealousy is as legendary as her beauty. Some say Lucrezia has poisoned her rivals, particularly those to whom her handsome brother, Cesare, has given his heart. So when Sancha falls under Cesare's irresistible spell, she must hide her secret or lose her life. Caught in the Borgias' sinister web, she summons her courage and uses her cunning to outwit them at their own game.

This was my first foray into the author, Jeanne Kalogridis, and I have to say that I really enjoyed this book. Sancha of Aragon was a sympathetic character, someone you could really admire for her strength, especially when dealing with the Borgia family. Cesare Borgia was most evil, but at the same time, fun to hate. I even came to realize that there was some goodness in Lucrezia Borgia, which I haven't read much of. If you like drama, corruption, murder and don't mind a little incest, then I definitely recommend this book.

Overall: 4.5/5
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