December 2018 book reviews

Connexion journalists read the latest French releases. To be fair, each gets 20 minutes’ reading time

The Queen’s Embroiderer, Joan DeJean

Bloomsbury Publishing, $30 ISBN: 978-1-63286-474-1

This unusual non-fiction book gives a unique insight into life in the 17th-18th centuries, from Versailles to Louisiana, via research into a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ tale the author came across by accident.

Working in the national archives she found a letter appointing one Jean Magoulet as embroiderer to Louis XIV’s queen - and then saw a royal decree to lock up his daughter and send her to the colonies...

The book details the lives of the Chevrots and Magoulets, who rose to riches in finance and embroidery, and in particular Louis and Louise who fell in love against their fathers’ wishes.

Embroidery was a key way in which wealth was displayed and the ‘Sun King’ himself ‘seemed garbed solely in gold and silver, reflecting light at every turn’. When ‘a taste for fabulous garments’ spread to the middle class too, the haute couture industry was born, but no modern fashion ...

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