Hardback, 18th century non-fiction
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On Amazon.com (not yet available to buy) HERE
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This is a book that serves the format of hardback perfectly and is worth the outlay, even if it will later be available in paperback or Kindle editions. It would grace any coffee table and make the most delightful present for a person with even a vague interest in this era, consisting of magazine article length chapters about the era from not only the English court but also that of the Bourbons, the Romanovs and more, arranged into the groupings of 'Children', 'Marriage', 'Scandal' and 'Death'. This serves to give a general impression of the whole era, and shows the background behind some of its most colourful characters.
I first came across Catherine Curzon's pieces on her blog, via Twitter (you can follow her @madamegilflurt), and was impressed by the light but compelling way in which she writes. There is much humour involved as she paints her cameos of the wayward George IV ('King Bling'!), Christian VII of Denmark, William IV, the unfortunate Caroline of Brunswick and the young Marie Antoinette, amongst many, many others. It's immensely readable. The eighteenth century is probably the one I know the least about so much of the information was new to me, but this book made me realise why it is such a popular subject for the producers of books and television dramas.
I think my favourite section was 'Death', and there is a satisfying wad of portraits and humorous drawings in the middle of the book, to which I kept flicking back as I read about each character. If I have any complaint it's that I kept thinking 'hang on, I haven't finished, I want to know more' at the end of many of the chapters, as they showed only snapshots of a character's history and I'd just be getting into one when it would end, but this in itself is a testament to Ms Curzon's writing, that she'd managed to make the person come alive in just a few pages. In any case that character would, inevitably, pop up again in another section. Incidentally, there is a timeline at the beginning of the book showing dates of all key events from 1660-1837.
|Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette|
I started off being frustrated by the stopping and starting, but the more I read on the more I saw how the book comes together as a whole and realised what a terrific achievement it is, indeed worthy of more than the 4* I was initially going to award it. A delightful book, beautifully presented, and one I shall return to again and again.
This book is based on a review copy, which in no way influenced my opinion.