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Trianon novel

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Trianon novel

Post  Elena on Thu Oct 20, 2011 4:40 pm

Very Happy

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Re: Trianon novel

Post  May on Mon Oct 31, 2011 9:10 pm

My review of Trianon and its sequel:

http://lostinthemythsofhistory.blogspot.com/2011/07/tragedy-of-royal-france.html

In these painstakingly researched, beautifully written and deeply felt works, she paints a compelling portrait of the tragedy of the French royal family in the wake of the Revolution. Drawing heavily on first-hand accounts of the period, told through vignettes and reminiscences, the story is incredibly (indeed, painfully) vivid. It is a tale of Christian fortitude amidst dynastic downfall and national apocalypse.

In Trianon, correcting many misconceptions (such as the King as feeble idiot and the Queen as decadent airhead), Miss Vidal provides a moving and intimate portrayal of the tragic Louis XVI and the viciously maligned Marie-Antoinette. Their love for God, each other, their children and the people of France are all conveyed with poignant intensity. Ultimately, they are killed for the ideals they represent as Catholic monarchs, facing their doom with the charity and magnanimity of martyrs.

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Re: Trianon novel

Post  Elena on Mon Oct 31, 2011 9:35 pm

Thank you! Very Happy It's one of my favorite reviews! (I put it in block quotes for you. It's the 12th box over.) Wink

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Re: Trianon novel

Post  May on Mon Oct 31, 2011 9:45 pm

Ah, I see it now! Thank you! queen
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Gareth Russell's Review

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 14, 2011 2:02 am

Gareth Russell is the author of Popular.

http://garethrussellcidevant.blogspot.com/2010/07/leaves-were-yellowing-trianon-2010.html

Nothing happens in Elena Maria Vidal's novel Trianon. In much the same way as nothing really happens in Michael Cunningham's The Hours. Yes, Marie-Antoinette is executed, in the same way as Virginia Woolf drowns herself at the beginning of The Hours, but "real drama" (whatever that is) never seems to happen. It's all internal - it's the story of people, rather than events.

Beginning in 1787, the year historians date as the beginning of the period in French history known as "the pre-Revolution," and ending in 1795, with an epilogue set in the Russian Empire twelve years later, Trianon's story starts after the glory days of Versailles are long over. Marie-Antoinette is no longer the vivacious teenage empress of high society, but rather a graceful and mature thirty-something with a growing family and a struggling husband. The flash of jewels, the swish of silk, the intoxicating aroma of heavy perfumes and the ceaseless rustle of delicious gossip over candlelit banquets, are a thing of the past. We do not see the towering hairstyles, the glistening fabrics, the enormous gowns and the all-night parties. And yet neither do we see what some amateur historians fancifully imagine to be their corollary - the violent purges of the Revolution. The summoning of the Estates-General, Bastille Day, the siege of the palace, the flight to Varennes, the downfall of the monarchy, the September Massacres, even the actual execution of Marie-Antoinette, all happen "off-stage," as it were. And that is because Trianon is not really about the glory of the ancien régime or the trauma of the Revolution, but rather it is about the agony and the ecstasy of living in such times. Above all, it is the story of a married couple - Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette - who, to quote the author in her Preface, endured "crushing disappointments, innumerable humiliations, personal and national tragedy, and death itself." And yet, despite this rather grim statement of purpose, Trianon emerges as a rather lovely and uplifting novel, despite the heartache, because, as Elena Maria Vidal so beautifully reminds us: "It is necessary to remember that the darkness of the night makes the stars shine with an ever greater resplendence."

Trianon begins with the famous court artist, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, painting a portrait of Marie-Antoinette, in the crisp autumn of 1787. The Queen of France is approaching her 32nd birthday and Madame Vigée-Lebrun has already painted Her Majesty's portrait several times before. Yet, each time, she is dissatisfied with the result - the artist, that is, not the subject. Madame Vigée-Lebrun, generally considered the finest portraitist of her generation, is frustrated with herself because "her previous attempts at reproducing on canvas the most radiant skin in all Europe, perhaps in the world, had fallen far short of her own high standards".

I loved the opening to this novel, if for no other reason than the fact that, to me, it seemed as if it's a rather lovely moment of self-portrait. Madame Vigée-Lebrun may as well be Elena Maria Vidal - having once been under the impression that the beautiful young queen was a frivolous, if charming, self-obsessive, Madame has now been exposed to her enough to have an entirely different opinion of her character. She sees her as kind, gracious, elegant, gentle, completely devoted to her children and - in short - a true lady. She is utterly feminine. And it is this high regard in which she holds Marie-Antoinette that makes Madame Vigée-Lebrun so keen to produce a believable portrait of her. Like her character, one senses that Elena Maria Vidal, having spent years researching the true personality of Marie-Antoinette, was determined to render a different kind of portrait of her, but one which captured the radiance that both she, and Madame Vigée-Lebrun, felt had been Marie-Antoinette's in abundance.

This delight in the minutiae of the period and her zeal to show Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette - and their family and acquaintances - as she believes them to have been in reality does lead to the occasional problem. True life anecdotes like Marie-Antoinette getting down on the ground to pick up dropped paintbrushes, rather than allow a pregnant servant to do it, are seamlessly (and beautifully) woven into the narrative, but at times, Miss Vidal's incredible levels of research can become too much. Anecdotes showing Louis XVI's deep commitment to his subjects' welfare or Marie-Antoinette's generosity to charity are occasionally described by characters in a way which jars with their usual speech pattern. In short, it becomes a little too didactic. It's particularly a problem in some of the early speeches given by the King's younger sister, Princess Elisabeth. Perhaps these flies in the ointment are, however, only noticeable because when Miss Vidal is giving full freedom to her imagination, the result is beautiful - her physical description of the King standing on the porch of his wife's weekend retreat at the Little Trianon in Chapter Four was one of my favourite parts of the novel, perhaps because it felt so natural and so intimate. Equally, the Mass seen from the point-of-view of the royal couple's eldest daughter, Princess Marie-Thérèse, was delightful.

Trianon wonderfully recreates the atmosphere of the final years of Versailles, a curiously enchanted and graceful world of linen gowns, straw hats and quiet garden parties. Without showing its violence, it also conjures up the full, terrifying reality of having to live through something like the French Revolution. Fear, in this novel, seems airborne - less of a psychological state and more of a physical reality. Marie-Antoinette's trial in particular is an unforgettable moment in the novel, if for all the wrong reasons, for it brings home the unfathomable cruelty with which she was treated and it is no wonder that in interviews, Elena Maria Vidal has spoken of how upsetting it was to research the horrific child abuse the revolutionary jailers inflicted upon the Queen's nine year-old son.

Filled with dozens of minor, but factual, characters, who ordinarily don't attract a novelist's attention, the characterisations of Madame Vigée-Lebrun, Princess Louise, the King's aging aunt (living as a nun in a Carmelite convent at the time of the novel's beginning) and that of Father Henry Edgworth, the King's Irish confessor, are particular highlights. The centre of this novel, however, and its highlight, is its portrayal of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. There is a moment, shortly before his execution, when the King is utterly moved by the loyalty shown to him by his priest. Beginning to weep at such unexpected kindness, after four years of degrading cruelty, the King remarks, "For a long time I have been among my enemies, and habit has accustomed me to them. But when I behold a faithful subject, it is to me a new sight! A different language speaks to my heart, and in spite of my utmost efforts, I am melted." In literature as in life, one is tempted to say. Far more so even than Marie-Antoinette, who is regularly presented as a spoiled bimbo, Louis XVI has not had a good press. The most generous assessment is to suggest he had a good heart but a poor brain and an even weaker backbone. I should know, because I have perhaps been guilty of this to an extent, through the way in which I presented him in my play, The Audacity of Ideas. At times, as an historian, I was not always convinced by Elena Maria Vidal's interpretation of some of Louis XVI's actions, but as a reader, I was deeply moved and, perhaps, it is time we started erring on the side of charity, rather than cynicism. In its presentation of his deep patriotism, his love for his people, his genuine desire to reform and improve France, his astonishing physical and mental bravery, and, above all, the basic decency of his character, this novel offers an emotive and accurate portrait of the most unlucky of French kings.

Written in a style which calls to mind the memoirs of those who actually lived in the 18th century, Trianon offers us a portrait of the French Royal Family that they themselves would have recognised, I think. Certainly, they would have been moved and touched by it. Unlike other historical novelists, and not just those writing about the 18th century, Trianon has the courage not to fabricate bodice-ripping and ludicrously over-sexualised story lines. Instead, it is focused on duty, on the reality of monarchy, on grace and on religion. Catholicism permeates this novel, as it undoubtedly did the lives of the real French Royal Family. It's refreshing, it's detailed and it's accurate.

Trianon is a novel of the twilight and the night. It takes place somewhere between the mesmerising decadence of the Barqoue and the blood lust of the Revolution. It is no götterdämmerung, no fin de siècle , no gone with the wind. Trianon does not weep for the world of Versailles, submerged like an Atlantis in the tidal wave of the Revolution's hysteria. In fact, Trianon does not weep at all. Through the tragedy and the violence, the genocide and the thousand petty cruelties, Trianon remains, resolutely, a novel of hope. It celebrates finding hope and finding grace and finding courage and sustaining love in the darkest of hours. Above all, Trianon is a haunting and sensitive portrait of a royal couple, armed only with their Faith and their convictions, who deserved a kinder lot whilst they lived and who, I imagine, might weep a little out of gratitude, as the King before his priest, at the affectionate portrayal of them offered-up by the pages of Elena Maria Vidal's Trianon. As this novel shows, by the end, they were not used to kindness.

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History's Slave

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:16 pm

My friend Gareth Russell referred to my novel Trianon in his dissertation at Oxford University a few years ago. Gareth also tells me that both Trianon and Madame Royale are to be found at Bodleian Library at Oxford. I am overwhelmed! Below are some excerpts from Gareth's brilliant exegesis that he has kindly shared with us. http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2010/05/historys-slave.html

From: HISTORY’S SLAVE: THE POSTHUMOUS REPUTATION OF QUEEN MARIE-ANTOINETTE By Gareth Russell B.A. Oxon (Saint Peter’s College, University of Oxford, Trinity Term 2007. Supervised by Dr. R. Gildea, Fellow of Worcester College, University of Oxford.)

From Section II - FULL OF GRACE: The Cult of Marie-Antoinette, “the martyr-queen”

Incredible as it may seem, given that the reverse is true for their long-term political fortunes, it is the sanctified image of Marie-Antoinette created by royalist dévots and Catholic populism at the beginning of the nineteenth century that has endured with far greater strength and appeal than the republican-manufactured image of a debauched and cruel adulteress. For some die-hard monarchists, the spectral figure of Marie-Antoinette remains ‘the incarnation of The Cause’ and the politico-religious significance of her death is, for them, undiminished: ‘In Marie-Antoinette lived and perished one of the most gracious martyrs of the Faith ... [she] died for having wanted to remain an obedient daughter of the Church, a preserver, as far as it depended on her, of Christ’s presence in the realm of France and as loyal as she could be to Him as who saved her by the Cross.’ (Ref 2.19, J.M. Charles-Roux, “Marie Antoinette: The Martyred Queen of Christian Europe,” The Royal Stuart Society, 1988, Vol. 6., No. 3., 55 – 62, The Royal Stuart Society and Royalist League, Huntingdon.)

In 1997, American author, Elena Maria Vidal, published a novel based on the marriage of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, entitled “Trianon.” The novel in itself is interesting beyond being a work of literature because it preserves a particularly Catholic version of the fall of the monarchy and the personality of Marie-Antoinette in particular. Appearing on Catholic network television in the United States, the novelist criticised the ‘general impression that most people do [have of her], the kind of decadent feather-head who, you know, didn’t really care about the people’ and discussed the machinations of the Comte de Provence and the Duc d’Orléans, which were felt to have been largely responsible for the destruction of Marie-Antoinette’s initial popularity amongst the Parisians. The opening inscription of “Trianon” was a quote from the Marquise de Gouvion Broglie Scolari who, at the height of the royalist cult of Marie-Antoinette, had proclaimed, ‘Never a saint more merited to be ranked in the long list of martyrs than Marie-Antoinette.’

However, it would be wrong to paint “Trianon” as a resurrection of purely Catholic polemicism in a modern commercial guise. It did not attempt to erase, for instance, instances of the Queen’s extravagance or various political mistakes made by the monarchical establishment in the years immediately pre-dating the Revolution. It was, in short, a far more nuanced characterizations than we might expect if we were simply to crudely label Miss Vidal’s work as “Catholic” and attempt to draw a straight line from it back to the explosion of popular veneration associated with Marie-Antoinette in the immediately post-Restoration era. The atmosphere and tone of “Trianon” is thus what we might describe as “emotionally Catholic,” but is neither panegyric nor polemical and this is an important development. As we shall see, the links between “Trianon” and Catholic sentiment about Marie-Antoinette are revelatory and indicative of a wider historiographical trend – for they are strong, but they are not prohibitive or controlling, nor have they negatively affected the tone of the novel and it is this kind of long-term links, persistent yet evolutionary, which characterises the relationships between the earlier and the later cultural manifestations of Marie-Antoinette’s posthumous reputation....

From Section III – A VEIL OF ANECDOTES: Marie-Antoinette as the heroine of Royalist Literature

Like the first royalist interpretation of Marie-Antoinette – that of the immaculate martyr – this second royalist version has enjoyed considerable longevity. However, the tragic heroine presented in the works of the Duchesse d’Angoulême, Madame Campan, the Marquise de Tourzel and Rosalie Lamorlière, has enjoyed much wider appeal than the icon of popular French-Catholic culture. The four memoirs in question have been heavily relied upon by all of the Queen’s subsequent biographers and many of the novelistic treatments of her – we can see their influence in books as differing as Lady Antonia Fraser’s “Marie Antoinette: The Journey” and Elena Maria Vidal’s novel “Trianon.” For although they all differ fundamentally in tone and personal style, the four memoirists relied upon personal memories and anecdotes to bolster their own firm belief that Marie-Antoinette had been both simultaneously heroine and victim and they also faithfully record their own private impressions of her, rendering her a more human character than other source. Most importantly, their reliance on personal and verifiable intimate memories gives their interpretations a timeless and universal appeal, exactly what the historian or novelist is looking for in creating or researching a personality.

From Section IV – THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE: Beauty and Sexuality in the Myth of Marie-Antoinette
Sub-section B: “Marie-Antoinette in Lesbian Literature”

Marie-Antoinette, as both beautiful woman and tragic queen, has naturally been the subject of several popular novels in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and the most recent, “Abundance” by Sena Jester Naslund, has enjoyed considerable commercial success. Yet, curiously, Marie-Antoinette has inspired statistically less popular fiction that other equally famous and unlucky royal women – substantially less in fact than, say, Anne Boleyn, who has been the subject of over twenty novels since the publication of Margaret Campbell-Barnes’s “Brief, Gaudy Hour” in 1959. In fact, the current number of novels about Marie-Antoinette in print barely outnumbers those on less important or less famous princesses, such as Catherine Howard, whose disastrous but otherwise practically irrelevant eighteen-month marriage to Henry VIII is the subject of three popular novels currently in print, with a fourth predicted for 2008. The absence of any substantial number of biographical novels on Marie-Antoinette presumably has something to do with the “quiet” period in her life, between the birth of Madame Royale in 1778 and the outbreak of the Affair of the Necklace in 1785 – an awkward seven year period which creates natural difficulties for any novelist.

The dominant feature about modern novels about Marie-Antoinette, from Jean Plaidy’s popular series in the 1970s to the more recent works like Kathryn Davis’s “Versailles” (1999), Carolly Erickson’s “Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette” (2005) and the aforementioned “Trianon” by Elena Maria Vidal is that they are all largely sympathetic to their main character, without being hagiographic. Fictitious chroniclers of Marie-Antoinette have never written a story in which she is portrayed in an overwhelmingly negative light – in contrast to Jean Plaidy’s “Madame Serpent” on Catherine de Medici or Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” on Anne Boleyn.

... The use of Marie-Antoinette in feminist-Lesbian literature can be queried on a variety of fronts. The first and most serious being that there is no real evidence that the historical Marie-Antoinette was a lesbian or even bisexual. Criticisms and concerns have also been voiced about popular lesbian activism’s appropriation of a woman who, according to one feminist scholar was, a ‘feckless, manipulative, often ruthless’ ultra-monarchist, who was not only entirely heterosexual but prudishly so. (Ref 4.63, T. Castle, “Marie-Antoinette Obsession,” in “Marie-Antoinette: Writings on the Body of a Queen,” ed. D. Goodman, New York, 2003, p. 229) According to such a line of argument, Marie-Antoinette is both politically and sexually inappropriate for the lesbian activist cause and her use, first seriously and later frivolously, as a gay icon represents a worry ‘apolitical, aestheticized, even reactionary subcultural phenomenon’. (Ref 4:64, Ibid.)

However, despite the obvious historical problems with Marie-Antoinette’s posthumous role in emergent 20th century lesbian culture, the fact that the Queen was accused of lesbianism and that her reputation suffered so much because of it means that she has acquired an obvious appeal for later generations of civil rights activists. The lynching of the Princesse de Lamballe by a revolutionary mob in September 1792 was, to a very real degree, the result of the rumours concerning her intimacy with the Queen. By removing the political connotations which caused the accusations of lesbianism in the first place, Marie-Antoinette can easily be transformed into an attractive icon for repressed gay culture. It might be argued that it is almost irrelevant from an anthropological point-of-view that the historical queen was neither lesbian, bisexual, nor a liberal – for example the lesbian accusations are treated for what they undoubtedly were (false) in novels like “Trianon” or “Versailles” – because the true importance of Marie-Antoinette’s story for gay history is that the prejudices her alleged sexuality provoked indicate just how unpalatable social circumstances were for genuine homosexuals in revolutionary France, particularly as more and more work by modern historians shows that homophobia (as we would now understand it) was far more virulent under the Republic than the monarchy.

The years between 1918 and 1939 witnessed an increased struggle for a lesbian and gay consciousness in the face of considerable social conservatism – literature such as “The Well of Loneliness” forms a small but important part of this cultural evolution. In this environment, Marie-Antoinette, a by-then famously romantic figure whose sexuality was apparently open to interpretation, could be used by authors to subtly suggest homoerotic possibilities to their readers. Like most of the initial readers of books like “The Well of Loneliness” or “Frost in May,” had Marie-Antoinette been a lesbian she would have had no choice but to repress her sexuality as best she could. Therefore, her use as a gay icon diminished – as we have seen – once repression became the exception, rather than the norm. Thus, Marie-Antoinette as a spectral emotional guide in gay literature lost her potency after the 1970s and 1980s, but there can be no real question of the importance she did have as a kind of focal point for lesbian authors and their readers in works of the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s, in their search for an elusive communal identity.

In some senses, the lesbian incarnation is one of the more factually untenable appropriations of Marie-Antoinette, perhaps even more so than the infamous cake canard. In modern novels like “Trianon” or “Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette,” Marie-Antoinette’s sexuality is never presented as anything other than entirely heterosexual – something which is almost certainly accurate. That is because the authors of these novels seek to portray what they interpret as a cultural, historical or emotional truth – the sheer level of research which has gone into some of the current in print novels, particularly Vidal’s “Trianon,” show that the authors seek to educate their readers about what they think, and we should think, of Marie-Antoinette. On the other hand, the writers of these early works of homosexual consciousness were not seeking to make us think again on the truth about Marie-Antoinette, but what to think again on the truth about ourselves and our society.

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An interview of Elena Maria Vidal by Gareth Russell

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:41 pm

Below are my answers to some thoughtful questions posed by author, actor and playwright Gareth Russell on his blog Confessions of a Ci-Devant. (No, Gareth and I are not related, as far as we know, although he might be very distantly related to my husband.)
http://garethrussellcidevant.blogspot.com/2010/07/interview-with-elena-maria-vidal-author.html
GR: Elena-Maria, thank you for doing this interview and welcome to "Confessions of a Ci-Devant." Although, that welcome is probably tardy and unnecessary - your comments on some of my posts have been some of my favourites – and it’s in no small part due to how much I enjoyed your blog, “Tea at Trianon,” that I decided to embark upon writing my own!

EMV: Thank you, Gareth, for the interview and for the support of my books. And your blog is a wonderful contribution for its wit and genuine scholarship.

GR: I think one of the things that made “Trianon” such a joy to read is that you and I have both written works that mirror each other’s – in that, they cover the same period and have many overlapping characters. “Trianon” is set before the Revolution, as is my play “The Audacity of Ideas,” whilst their respective sequels “Madame Royale” and “All Those Who Suffered,” both deal with the fates of Marie-Antoinette’s children in the years after the Revolution. Knowing what it’s like to write on the period, I know there’s a huge amount of research that has to go into the writing process – before we even begin writing, as it were. How much research did you do on Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette before starting on “Trianon” and did you start the research with the intent of writing a novel about them, or did the research generate the idea of writing the novel itself?

EMV: Yes, Gareth, your plays and my novels include many of the same characters, and we have similar takes on those characters. I began reading about Marie-Antoinette when I was nine. I was so moved by her story that I covered my school notebooks with drawings of her, and liked to coiffure my Barbie dolls in eighteenth century bouffants with plumes. I continued to read various books about Marie-Antoinette throughout the years. By the time I was a grad student I had visited Versailles twice, but it was not until I saw a picture of Petit Trianon in Smithsonian Magazine that I felt inspired to write something about the Queen. It was just a photo of a staircase, but in my mind’s eye I could see Marie-Antoinette walking down it. I wanted to capture a moment in time, one of those happy moments that were like islands in a sea of tragedy in the life of Marie-Antoinette. I was already deep into research about the French Revolution as part of my graduate studies. I wrote the Prologue and then put the whole thing aside for ten years.

After a trip to Vienna I found the manuscript and the notebooks with my research in my father’s basement. I felt inspired by my trip to Vienna to take it up again, but I decided to include the Revolution, without which the inner strength of Marie-Antoinette does not come into its fullness. I researched as I went along and have continued to do so even after the publication of the first edition. I am still researching. There is always more to learn.

GR: You write under the name of “Elena Maria Vidal,” which is a pen-name, and your marital surname is “Russell.” So, I’d just like to clear up for those who have asked the question, alas – we are not related! What was the reason for writing under the name “Elena Maria Vidal”?

EMV: My husband Mike Russell is related to the Russells who are the Dukes of Bedford. So if you are related to the Dukes of Bedford, then you are probably related to my husband. But that’s funny that people think we are related! Let them think that if they want!

As for my nom-de-plume, I write under my grandmother’s name. During the EWTN BookMark interview Doug Keck asked me the reason for using a pen name and I replied it to honor my grandmother. As a child I used to say to her, “Grandma, tell me about your life.” Maria Magdalena Vidal was born on May 25, 1904 on the island of Cebu in the Philippines. Her mother, Mamerta Arnibal, was an exotic beauty with dark skin and chiseled features, of Asian and Spanish descent, the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Mamerta caught the glance of a poor young Spaniard, Jaime Vidal. They married and she was disinherited. He died, leaving my great-grandmother and grandmother in a vulnerable state. Mamerta was kidnapped and forced to marry a man she did not love. Magdalena was being abused so to save her child’s life, Mamerta took her to an orphanage for mixed race children. My grandmother overcame a deprived childhood to become a gifted teacher, and later she had to deal with an abusive and unfaithful husband, the death of a child, the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, and divorce. In my childhood, Grandma Magdalena would spend the summers with us in Maryland. She was always immaculately dressed and coifed, always busy, never wasting a moment of time. As she crocheted, she would tell me about her life. A stroke destroyed her health and she had to move to a nursing home. She died on November 12, 1987. Whenever my life takes a difficult turn, I remember her courage and resourcefulness during the worst of times. She is one of the most beloved people of my life, whose influence upon me has no measure.

GR: Throughout “Trianon” we are constantly changing perspectives – a device which I loved. For example, the prologue is told from the point-of-view of the great 18th century artist, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Chapter One from the viewpoint of the King’s aunt, Louise, and Chapter Two from the viewpoint of his eldest daughter – and so on. What was the reason behind choosing so many different narrators and how did you select who to centre each chapter upon?

EMV: At first I wanted it all to be from the point of view of Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, the oldest daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. But then I realized that there were many things that Thérèse would have no knowledge of. So I decided to paint a portrait of Marie-Antoinette through the eyes of those closest to her, beginning with Madame Lebrun. I wanted it to be a portrait come to life, a frozen slice of time which nevertheless reveals the truth of the matter.

GR: There are a wealth of characters in “Trianon.” Apart from Louis XVI or Marie-Antoinette, who was your favourite to write, and why?

EMV: Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, definitely. She later became the heroine of my novel Madame Royale, which is about to go into its second edition with your kind endorsement. I relate a great deal to Thérèse. She started life as the daughter of the King of the grandest kingdom in the world. She was THE princess. By the time she was seventeen she was a homeless orphan. In my late teens my parents separated, beginning long years of conflict and confusion, resulting in the destruction of my family circle. The world of my childhood vanished forever. Like Thérèse I had a strong sense of displacement and experienced post-traumatic stress from which it took years to recover. I have a tiny glimmer of what she went through, which I try to convey in the books.

GR: I felt very strongly that, when I was reading “Trianon’s” prologue, there was a hint of a self-portrait in your portrayal of Madame Vigée-Lebrun and her determination to render a faithful portrait of Queen Marie-Antoinette. Did you feel under a certain amount of pressure to convey the Queen accurately in “Trianon”?

EMV: Very much so, Gareth. Around the time I was writing Trianon, I had a dream of Marie-Antoinette. I saw her sitting with her children on a sofa in a glittering salon, as clear as day, although the scene around them was blurry. The Queen looked right at me and said: “I want people to see us as we really were.” It was only a dream, and there is no accounting for the tricks the subconscious mind will play, but I think that the anecdote illustrates my desire to paint the most accurate portrait possible, a living portrait of words.

GR: One character that fascinates me is that of Gabrielle, Duchesse de Polignac, one of Marie-Antoinette’s favourites. She takes centre-stage in “The Audacity of Ideas” and you and I have had some private discussions about her. What is your personal opinion of Gabrielle de Polignac?

EMV: I think that Gabrielle has been maligned as much as Marie-Antoinette . She is usually portrayed in books and films as Marie-Antoinette's "bad girl" friend, responsible for leading the young queen of France into a wild, decadent lifestyle. Often depicted as a greedy, spendthrift slut, Gabrielle preferred simplicity, was a devoted mother and loyal friend of both Louis and Antoinette. She wore simple, tasteful clothes, never wore perfume or flashy gems, such as diamonds. Cheerful and discreet, a lover of music and the outdoors, Gabrielle was a refined lady of enchanting grace and beauty. Authors such as Philippe Delorme, the Coursacs, and Bernard Fay maintain that Louis XVI encouraged his wife to befriend Gabrielle, and so created for her a circle of politically "safe" friends.

Marie-Antoinette also needed a calm, motherly companion, older than herself, to advise her about her difficulties in her marriage, her fears about pregnancy and childbirth. Gabrielle was such a friend, soothing the queen in her moments of hysteria and depression. Louis XVI held her in high regard, and gave a high office to her husband so that the Polignacs could afford to live at court. Madame de Polignac was the only person Louis XVI ever visited in a private home; he sat with her at the opera, and wrote to her when she left Versailles. As the royal family grew, the king and queen entrusted Gabrielle with their children, being that she had showed herself to be an exemplary mother of her own three. Gabrielle influenced the queen to adopt simpler styles.

GR: You’ve said before that the story of the abuse of Marie-Antoinette’s young son, Louis-Charles, by the revolutionaries, was harrowing to research and write. I wrote “All Those Who Suffered” about his case when I was seventeen and I remember reading Deborah Cadbury’s book “The Lost King of France” and being both horrified and shocked by what had happened to him. Or, rather, been inflicted upon him. How much did you know about the abuse of Louis XVII and, as a mother, did you feel a kinship with Marie-Antoinette in that terrible moment in the courtroom?

EMV: I actually know more about the sufferings of the Dauphin now than when I first wrote Trianon, but I knew enough then from reading biographies and memoirs to be right on target. I was not yet married when I described the horrors of Temple, and did not have my own children. However, I had small half-brothers and a half sister whom I helped to care for and whom I loved like my own children. The thought of anything happening to them gave me an idea of what Marie-Antoinette experienced. Now that I am a mother, I feel even deeper kinship with Marie-Antoinette. I can no longer watch the scene in the film Marie-Antoinette with Norma Shearer in which they take Louis-Charles away.

GR: Which movie portrayal of Marie-Antoinette has been your favourite and if you could have any modern actor or actress play Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette in an adaptation of “Trianon,” who would it be?

EMV: I thought Norma Shearer was excellent as Marie-Antoinette in the 1938 version (below). The best portrayal of all time is that of Ute Lemper in L’Autrichienne. I always thought that Kate Winslet would have made a good Marie-Antoinette, and perhaps Scarlett Johannsen. Romola Garai would make a wonderful Marie-Antoinette.

GR: A lot of readers will be wanting to do further research on the French Royal Family after “Trianon,” I’m sure. What books would you recommend for them?

EMV: The best biography in English is the 1930’s two volume work by Nesta Webster. If one can get around Nesta’s extreme politics, her character studies of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette are brilliant and based upon original documents. Her research was exhaustive. The biographies of Vincent Cronin and Desmond Seward are also quite good. In the French language, there is nothing like L’Insoumise by Simone Bertière. I would also recommend Philippe Delorme’s biography. I encourage people to visit my Tea at Trianon blog where on the sidebar I have articles I have written along with links to other sources and sites of interest.

GR: Congratulations on the publication of “The Night’s Dark Shade”! What is next for Elena Maria Vidal?

EMV: Thank you, Gareth. I went through a lot with The Night’s Dark Shade but it has all been worth it, since it is selling steadily, especially on Amazon Kindle where it is usually ranked among the top 100 books about France. Presently I am working on a novel based on the life of my great-great- great-grandfather Daniel O’Connor, who left County Cork in the 1820’s to build a new life in the Canadian wilderness. He and his family were people of great integrity who never let hardships get them down. I am almost half way through but have a great deal more to go.

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Re: Trianon novel

Post  Sophie on Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:14 pm

This was the first novel that I bought as an eBook for my new Kindle Reader. Wow, how a wonderful decision it was! Very Happy I finished it today, and I'm still amazed. Well-structured, accurate, touching - I enjoyed every moment of it, laughing and crying with your characters. If only I met your Louis and Antoinette in every book, including the non-fictional ones... I was totally involved in the story and I felt that you write as a lady from the 18th century Wink

I'm planning to write about it a bit longer, but I need some time. I simply couldn't avoid telling this here... Rolling Eyes Thank you for writing it.
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Re: Trianon novel

Post  Elena on Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:02 pm

Sophie, I once had a dream in which I saw Queen Marie-Antoinette and her children sitting on a sofa in a crowded salon in Versailles. The Queen looked directly at me and said, "I want people to see us as we really were." It was just a dream but when I have someone tell me that they feel they have met the King and Queen through my books it fills me with great joy. May God reward you, dear friend. Very Happy queen

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Re: Trianon novel

Post  princess garnet on Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:47 pm

Last month I placed an order for both novels through aquinasandmore.com and am still waiting for them to arrive. I called the customer service number for an update; turns it out they're waiting for the publisher to send it.

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Re: Trianon novel

Post  Julygirl on Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:13 pm

I hope they arrive soon! Very Happy queen flower
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Re: Trianon novel

Post  May on Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:37 pm

Elena wrote:Thank you! Very Happy It's one of my favorite reviews!
Thank you! I regretted having to split it up into two parts when I put the review on Amazon. The novels just flow together so well that it seemed very natural to review them together, too.
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Re: Trianon novel

Post  Elena on Fri Aug 10, 2012 10:57 pm

I appreciate it very much that you put the reviews on Amazon!!! Very Happy Thank you!!! cheers

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Re: Trianon novel

Post  May on Fri Aug 10, 2012 11:32 pm

Yes, I also put up the one for The Night's Dark Shade. flower
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Re: Trianon novel

Post  Elena on Sat Aug 11, 2012 10:02 am

I really appreciate it!! Very Happy

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Re: Trianon novel

Post  Elena on Sat Nov 03, 2012 12:02 am

Here are some interviews and broadcasts on both Trianon and Madame Royale:











http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rebecca-diserio/2012/10/21/forward-boldly-guest-elena-maria-vidal

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Re: Trianon novel

Post  Lelia on Tue Nov 06, 2012 7:32 am

I have just ordered Trianon on Amazon and I just can say a word "Fantastic!". I have been reading books on Marie-Antoinette since I was 13 and I really love this one, we feel as if Marie-Antoinette herself was speaking with her delicate manners and gentle ways -pardon me but I have somehow lost my English, since I haven't practised for many years Embarassed

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Re: Trianon novel

Post  Elena on Tue Nov 06, 2012 1:18 pm

Thank you, Lelia! Welcome! cheers bounce

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Re: Trianon novel

Post  Elena on Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:04 am

Here are other quotes from Trianon with pictures that some readers have put together.
http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/elena-maria-vidal

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