The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

This wonderful novel by celebrated author Sandra Gulland of The Josephine Trilogy tells the complex tale of the early years of the life of Claude des Oeillets. This is a great novel which I enjoyed reading.
Claude des Oeillets was a personal assistant to Madame de Montespan during the early years of the court of Louis XIV in France in the 17th century.
Claude was from an acting family and it is this aspect of the novel which appeals i.e. the travels and also travails of an acting troupe during these early years in France.
The Great Corneille, writer and playwright was an inspiration to these theatre people whose livelihoods often depended upon patronage and performances given on the stage at courts or various centres in the surrounding countryside.
Claude des Oeillets seems to me to have been an enigma and she also appears as a character in the novel
Of Athenais, The Real Queen of France by Lisa Hilton as a servant of Madame de Montespan.
I enjoyed reading the novel. It gives wonderful insights into another era and time where life was so different from today’s world and the king was the supreme power in the land.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Claude and how she reacts to adverse situations in her life, the hardships and troubles of her family and also from the time of her first meeting with Madame de Montespan who came from a more privileged background. Apparently in earlier more prosperous times her mother and father had been well received on the stage and well regarded as performers in their day.
The story tells of the wonderful side of court life and its beauty and grandeur but also unfortunately also shows a side of court life which is not respectable or acceptable and Claude has to make decisions about her life and face consequences because of earlier decisions which she has made. Ultimately Claude decides where her true loyalties lie and what is the better course for her and her child.
The novel is a triumph of great story-telling. In the end Claude makes a decision which she feels she can live with. She decides to leave the employ of Madame de Montespan. The life at court was not all is seemed and because of the values which she was brought up with she could no longer continue to live a life which was not in keeping with her own moral code.
This book is wonderful and gives a good account of what may have occurred during the Affair of the Poisons at the Court of Louis XIV where so many people were named and also banished from court.
“The Shadow Queen” is an excellent historical fiction novel and the adventures of Claude des Oeillets in the employ of Madame de Montespan are fascinating to follow. The court life and its many complexities are seen throughout in this novel from what Claude des Oeillets could see and gather from her own information. It is very good.


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