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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Review: Madame Serpent

Author: Jean Plaidy
Genre: Historical fiction
Pub Date: 1951
{First volume of the Medici Trilogy}

From Amazon UK:

Sullen-eyed and broken-hearted, fourteen-year-old Catherine de'Medici arrives in Marseilles to marry Henry of Orleans, second son of the King of France. On the promise of a dowry fit for a king, Catherine has left her true love in Italy, forced into trading her future for a stake in the French crown. Amid the glittering fetes and banquets of the most immoral court in sixteenth-century Europe, the reluctant bride becomes a passionate but unwanted wife. Humiliated and unloved, Catherine spies on Henry and his lover, the infamous Diane de Poitiers. And, tortured by what she sees, Catherine becomes dangerously occupied by a ruthless ambition destined to make her the most despised woman in France: the dream that one day the French crown will be worn be a Medici heir ...

My Thoughts:

This was my first Plaidy book and I enjoyed it. At first I thought it was dragging along, but once I remembered this was book one of the trilogy, it all made sense. This book re-imagines the events that eventually shaped Catherine de Medici into the woman she would become. Catherine went to France wide eyed and innocent and quickly became disillusioned. Although she loved her new father, Francis I, and his court, she never gained the courts full acceptance. Catherine was on excellent terms with the King, but his son, her husband, was another matter.

Poor Catherine absolutely loved and adored her husband Henry. Unfortunately, all of Henry's love went to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. She had Henry wrapped around her little finger, and Catherine could do nothing about it. But Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. In her own quiet way, Catherine agitates her enemies, in the shadows, no one is the wiser, until it is too late.

Plaidy's descriptions of court dress, and festivities are delightful. I can just imagine the jewel encrusted gowns and entertainments at the court. I can also feel Catherine's pain. What was most interesting to me, was the power women held in the French court. The Queen to a certain extent and most of all the mistresses. Men and women were considered equals, for the most part, not like the English courts I have read so much about. I don't know if this was a result of Francis I, or it was the norm. I'll have to research this.
All in all an enjoyable book and I look forward to book two.

My Rating: 4/5

Challenges: Jean Plaidy Challenge 2009, Library Challenge 2009


Arleigh said...

Sounds like another great read from Plaidy! Catherine was one of the main characters in Evergreen Gallant as well, but she was definitely not innocent! I actually like Diane de Poiters because I read Courtesan by Diane Haeger and really loved her character.

I'll make sure to update the challenge page and if you want I will link your review on our reviews page. 3 of us are doing the Plaidy Reading Group and this month is St. Thomas's Eve/The King's Confidante. I read it about 4 years ago, but I'm re-reading it and it is one of my favorites!

Jenny Girl said...

Hi Arleigh,
I wrote down the book you mentioned. There are two sides to every story, so I would like to read from de Poiters point of view.

Oh you added the review already. Thanks Arleigh! I'll be sure to do it next time. I saw the Reading Group but was afraid I wouldn't make it in time. I have some books I need to plow through first. I'll check back for next month.
I still have Melisande (It Began in Vauxhall Gardens) checked out from the library, so that will be my next Plaidy.

The Bookworm said...

sounds very good, great review! and the cover is beautiful.

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