The Queen’s Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray – Audiobook Review

The Queen’s Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
Published in audio by Penguin Audiobooks, published in print by The Penguin Press, both imprint of Penguin

Synopsis:

Swedish Count Axel von Fersen is the infamous lover of Marie Antoinette, the French queen who would lose her head. The two meet while Marie Antoinette is still the dauphine and their relationship continues throughout the rest of her life. Indeed, von Fersen is even the brains behind the royal family’s unsuccessful attempt to flee the country once the Revolution begins to get truly dangerous. Even so, he is typically a minor character in the story of the French Revolution. In The Queen’s Lover, we see the entire situation from Axel’s point of view, including his life after the execution of his beloved queen.

Thoughts on the story:

The Queen’s Lover is told as if posthumously through von Fersen’s diaries and memoirs, which themselves seem to have been written after the majority of the events in question. As a result there is – strangely, for fiction – essentially zero dialogue. This give the narrative almost a clinical feel, Axel seems to be reporting on the events in question more as a historian would than as a participant would, creating a less compelling narrative than one might expect from Marie Antoinette’s lover. von Fersen himself also comes across as fairly unlikeable, professing his great love for Marie Antoinette, all the while having affairs with other women even while the queen is still alive.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Edoardo Ballerini actually brings more depth and emotion toThe Queen’s Lover than is necessarily indicated in du Plessix Gray’s story, making it a better listen that it might otherwise be. At times I nearly even forgave Ballerini’s von Fersen for his infidelities, but when the king is only one of two husbands he is cuckolding, it is difficult, even with Ballerini’s sympathetic narration. There is not much cause for Ballerini to give characters different voices due to the lack of dialogue, but his vocal changes give depth to the difficult situations described.

For more, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

I wish du Plessix Gray had simply written this as nonfiction, it could have been interesting and informative, but it was a bit odd as fiction. If you are going to attempt this, I strongly recommend the audiobook, as Ballerini keeps the story moving.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Print*
Indiebound: Print*
Audible.com

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The True Memoirs of Little K by Adrienne Sharp – Book Review

The True Memoirs of Little K by Adrienne Sharp
Published by Picador, an imprint of Macmillan

Little K was a prima ballerina, the lover of the last Russian tsar. A woman whose determination brought her into the beds of many members of the imperial family, but whose brilliant future was derailed when Russia as she knew it began to disappear, along with her beloved Tsar Nicholas II, and something where the concubine of the Romanovs was a dangerous thing to be. But perhaps it would be best to let Little K introduce herself in her own words, as this is a story she has been endlessly remembering for the past 50 years:

My name is Mathilde Kschessinska, and I was the greatest Russian ballerina on the imperial stages. But the world I was born to, the world I was bred for, is gone, and all the players in it are also gone – dead, murdered, exiled, walking ghosts. -p. 3

Mathilde Kscessinska is a fascinating subject through whose eyes the reader can explore the fall of tsarist Russia. As a member of the Imperial Ballet and daughter of well-respected Catholic Poles as well as the mistress of Tsar Nicholas II and at least two other members of the imperial family, she had a unique point of view for the fall of the empire, particularly as she also had the benefit of hindsight from her Parisian exile. Sharp excelled in creating Little K’s voice. There was a sort of learned regal quality to her thoughts, a self-aware verbosity that spoke of a women reaching to achieve a higher station. Occasionally this resulted in mild distraction, such as when commas extended sentences far too long, or when Little K would digress into future events while telling her story. Still, overall it was done to good effect.

Although some of the more minor characters are easily confused, Little K’s story is a dramatic and interesting one that is told well. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher for BOOK CLUB.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Apollo’s Angels by Jennifer Homans – Audiobook Review

Apollo’s Angels by Jennifer Homans, narrated by Kirsten Potter
Published in print by Random House, published in audio by Tantor Media

Synopsis:

In Apollo’s Angels, Jennifer Homans tells the story of 400 years of ballet’s history, a history which, until now, has  been unwritten.

Thoughts on the story:

Ballet is ballet is ballet. Or so I thought, before reading Apollo’s Angels. I had no idea that there were national differences even today, or that political movements such as the French and Russian Revolutions were so expressed through the art of ballet. Weighing in at almost 700 pages in print and close to 24 hours in audio, Apollo’s Angels is certainly a commitment, but it is a pleasant one. Homan succeeds in writing a book which is informative about the history of ballet and the way that ballet serves as a mirror of social and political history, while at the same time is not overly technical. There were certainly passages here and there that lost me briefly talking about specific steps, but even though I have not taken ballet since I was five years old, I was never lost for long, and was engaged enough to stick through those technical sections to return to the history.

The one place Homan did lose me was at the very end, in which she makes an argument for the disappearance of ballet in the near future which does not seem to be hinted at or backed up in any way by the 600 odd pages that precede it. Still, though, it was a very short passage in comparison with the rest of the book, and was not enough to permanently leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Kirsten Potter did an absolutely lovely job narrating Apollo’s Angels, the casting was really just perfect for the book. For my full thoughts on the audio, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

I was more interested in Apollo’s Angels for the social and cultural history than for the ballet itself, but ballet was a fascinating way to impart this history. I think this would work well in print or audio, although I don’t think I’d have done as well with it in print, as I would likely have gotten bogged down in the technicalities of dance. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2011