The exchange of princesses by Chantal Thomas




The exchange of princesses by Chantal Thomas

French fiction

Original title – L’exchange des princesses

Translator – John Cullen

Source – review copy


“Trophy Wife”

No nobody wants to be
No no one’s lover
No matter what they say
Lovers know they are the ones
Who one day have to go

Trophy wives
I know they wander
And find a young  young man
Trophy wives
I know they wander

One time you were a good rabbit
To all the girls
And all their lovely mothers
You tried a piece of everything
Now nothing turns you on

Trophy wives
I know they wander
And find a young young man
Trophy wives
I know they wander

I choose the National song Lyric Trophy wives although a modern term were the princesses trophy wives ?

Another challenge I tried for this woman in translation month was this book a french translation and a historic novel .I like 20th and late 19th century in fiction so I am not adverse to historic fiction but haven’t always connected to fiction from times earlier than that . But I was offered this kindly by Other press and I just liked the cover and with woman in translation month in the distant future I decided to give this one a whirl . Chantal Thomas is a noted writer philosopher and historian .Her best known book is Farewell my queen , which was about the last days of Marie Antoinette .This is her latest of  twenty books in various area she has published in the last thirty year .This book is also being made into a film .

Mile de montpensier is frowning ,She mutters that her corset’s too tight , that is beastly cold in the coach .Her father remains calm , but underneath the kind facade his impatience is perceptible .He wants to have done with this Farewell farce .

Sad really father seeing his daughter off for what might be the last time .

The exchange of princesses is novel of a true event in history when Philippe the second the leader of france , but by 1721 his life had taken its toll and with time running short he and the king of Spain worked out a plan that saw Phillippe son his chosen heir Louis Vx so he has chosen a wife for his daughter the four year old daughter of the King of Spain .As part of this deal their own twelve year old daughter is to marry another Spanish prince ,The book follows the two young princesses as they take the then actually quite long journey from each royal court , which sees how each princess fairs as they trade princesses to try to end years of conflict between the two countries .As one is to become heir to the throne through her husband and the other to marry a prince of Asturias but no heir .

Mile de montpensier ‘s people are returning to Paris ,Her cortege will form up again , just as before , except now the Infanta will occupy her place .Mile de montpensier her self sets out at the head of what was the infanta’s cortege .The french princess is surround exclusively by spanish courtiers , men at arms and servants ,

Imagine being left with a group of people from another country at just twelve years old so scary I think .


There is a saying truth is stranger than fiction , well this book is a perfect example of this . Now we know here in the uk how important royal marriages are and how much they mean to the country .But go back a couple of centuries and these royal marriages were more political than now as the royal families still had powers in their countries . So under this way of thinking marrying an eleven year old heir to the french throne to a four-year old princesses with the loss of your own daughter as part of the bargain is considered ok . I found this idea now such a scary concept for the girls and Chantal does get this across well to be pulled from your own world to another place and culture was so difficult .I felt the time with out feel overwhelmed by being in the time Chantal Thomas has a subtle story telling style that feels modern  but drags you into the past .

Have you a favourite historic novel in tranlsation ?

The castle of of whisper by Carole Martinez

The Castle of Whispers

The castle of Whisper by Carole Martinez

French fiction

Original title – Du domaine des murmures

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – review copy

Carole Martinez is a rising star of historic fiction in France this is her second novel .She is a middle school teacher ,she began writing during maternity leave nine years ago .This her second novel won the Goncourt Lyceens in 2011 ,previous winners are Phillippe  Claude and Andrei Makine .The prize sees twelve books read by 2000 students and they choose the one they like .

in the year 1187 , Esclarmonde ,damsel of the whisper ,resolves to live as an anchoress at Hautepierre , confined until her death to the sealed cell built for her by her father against the walls of the chapel that he erected on his lands in honour of Saint Agnes ,who was martyred at the age of thirteen for having accepted no other bridegroom than christ

How esclarmonde end up a damsel of whispers .

The castle of whisper is set in 12th century France ,a young women  ,the fifteen year old Esclarmonde is due to marry a rather unworthy Knight that has a wandering eye .She decides to turn her back on this marriage and join the Church much to her fathers dismay and she  becomes a mistress of Christ .She chooses to use her dowry for her entry to the church  instead of her marriage and builds a stone chapel where she entombed herself  in a cell ,the years pass and she can only contact the world via a small gap .She has become a link between the world of now and the dead ,her words tell what may happen ,the whispers of this place change the outside world .A world gripped in violence and the crusades are taking part .

My father had not yet put in an appearance outside my cell .In the autumn ,he had taken a second wife ,a young childless widow not much older than myself .whom I had often glimpsed since her arrival at the castle .her name was Douce ,and she smiled at me whenever she passed the maple .

What will the new stepmother bring into Esclarmonde life ?

I have struggle with historic fiction in the past ,I must have been the only person not too enjoy wolf hall ,so it was with nerves I decided to read this as it was another book set in the middle ages .But was surprised to find I liked it Martinez is a poetic writer ,she shows the transformation of the young girl to a woman in the walls of a church .I enjoyed the series on the TV in the  eighties Robin Hood ,which like this novel drift at times into the world of mysticism ,Esclarmonde and her castle of whispers are a French take on the same themes touched in the TV series ,people tended to believe in the other world ,worlds more than they do now .Gabriel Garcia Marquez is mentioned on the back cover  from a review ,I agree she has the same way of making the extraordinary seem less so the world isn’t so surreal as Marquez does in his books .The castle of whispers is about the power of men and women to battle the world in different ways one with love the other with violence .How faith can make people change and grow .

Do you have a favourite historic writer ?

July 2020


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