I had wanted to read Kathryn Davis’s work for some a while now; I had heard of its creative use of perspective, and having recently watched Marie Antoinette, I thought it it was time to move the novel towards the top of my list of books to buy. When Keith and I were in Portland, I happened upon a used copy at Powell’s that was being sold for a pittance — how could I resist? — and started reading that very day.
Versailles is most definitely a book that demands the reader’s full concentration, if only because so much of it is done in a stream-of-consciousness sort of style. If that’s not enough to require from the reader, then consider what Davis does in regards to point-of-view. The author doesn’t write from Marie-Antoinette’s point-of-view; she doesn’t write from Louis XVI’s point-of-view; neither does she write from the point-of-view of the masses. Davis writes from the perspective of Marie-Antoinette’s own soul, which is both lovely and jarring. Oh, and if that’s not enough, Davis also bops around to include several scenes written in play format.
What I liked most about Versailles is literally that — the palace itself. Davis moves the plot from room to room, from the lush gardens to the famous Hall of Mirrors, in such a way that the reader is practically swept along as if observing the story from the hem of Marie-Antoinette’s skirts. In the author’s note, Davis describes how the story came about, and how she visited Versailles on multiple occasions in order to get the minute details exactly right, ranging from the number of steps in the entrance to the panes of glass in each window. She also writes compellingly — and in a far more straightforward manner — about her research, her obsession with Marie-Antoinette and about the palace itself. While Versailles is ultimately a rewarding read, the author’s note is just as fascinating.