Promotional bit first: My first book signing will be at Brightleaf Books in Smithfield, North Carolina, on Friday, June 23! (Time to be arranged.) This gives me two months to perfect a signature that actually looks like “Susan Higginbotham” instead of the mark of a highly dysfunctional two-year-old, so please come to admire my handiwork. If you don’t happen to live near Smithfield, North Carolina, don’t let that deter you—you’ve two months to make your arrangements, and Smithfield is on the way to North Carolina’s beaches, which are sandy (as opposed to rocky), clean, and WARM (a big incentive for you folks from colder climates). So start planning, ladies and gentlemen of the blogsphere.
I myself went to the beach this weekend and succeeded both in sunburning my feet and in finishing The Queen’s Confession, Victoria Holt’s novel about Marie Antoinette. I was very impressed by this one. It’s written in the first person by the queen, who bluntly acknowledges her failings and records her regrets about what she might have done differently.
One of the most well written episodes in the novel is that in which Marie Antoinette attempts to escape France incognito in a lavishly equipped, outsized vehicle known as a berlin. We share the queen’s frustration and regret that she chose such a conspicuous, high-status vehicle, especially when she tells us that her brother-in-law picked a shabby carriage for his own (ultimately successful) escape. Our frustration mounts as the party of escapees makes blunder after blunder, such as missing connections and stopping to let the royal children stretch their legs. At the same time, though, even as we readers know the attempt is doomed, we find ourselves hoping, against all logic, that it succeeds after all.
My only real dissatisfaction with this novel came from the limitations the first-person narration imposed. (One of these days, when I’m feeling more ruminative, I’ll post about first-person narration versus third-person narration in historical fiction. Comments welcome in the meantime.) I would have liked to have read more about what was going on outside Marie Antoinette’s chambers, to learn more of what was taking place in the minds of the people around her. All in all, though, this is a historical novel well worth reading.