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Love & Louis XIV


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If your chosen beach reading is a bit more serious, then what could be better than the latest biography by Antonia Fraser? Love and Louis XIV, subtitled The Women in the Life of the Sun King, is impressively researched and crafted and is both lively and wholly absorbing.

The book centres around the Sun King and his relationship with numerous and fascinating women. Naturally dividing into five parts, it concentrates on the King’s mother, Anne of Austria, to whom he was devoted; his first important mistress, Louise de la Valliere, who bore him several illegitimate children; Athenais Marquise de Montespan, who acted as unofficial Queen of Versailles until her involvement in the affair of poisons, and of course Marie Therese, his wife; and Madame de Maintenon, governess to the illegitimate royal children.

The fifth part concentrates on his relations in old age with his daughters, granddaughters and the wife of his grandson. It vividly brings to life the vast edifice of Louis XIV’s court: the magnificence, artistic splendour, elaborate ritual and, in some cases, absurdity and misery. The novel is out in paperback at 15.50 euros.

Also now out in paperback are Mission Song by John Le Carré and Afghan by Frederick Forsyth, priced at 11 euros each.