Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Orange Trees of Versailles: A Novel

Orange Trees of Versailles: A Novel

Annie Pietri
Historical Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
Delacorte Press, 2004   ISBN: 978-1422358610

When Marion is given a job in the household of the Kings favorite, the Marquise de Montespan, she is not altogether delighted. She misses her father and the days that she used to spend helping him work in the royal gardens. She is therefore surprised and relieved when she is given a job that suits her very well indeed; the Marquise asks Marion to make perfumes for her.

Scents and smells fill Marion’s life in a more pronounced way than they do for most other people, for her sense of smell is acute and highly discerning. She can pick up nuances and scents that most of us would never even know are there. She is therefore perfectly suited to making fragrances, and she is very good at it.

After being given this wonderful new job Marion is ready to believe that the King’s favorite is a good and generous mistress, but she soon finds, to her horror, that the lady is quite the opposite. She is selfish, cruel, heartless, and incredibly ambitious. With growing concern Marion discovers that the favorite plans to remove everyone who stands between herself and the king. Marion seems to be the only person who has the means to stop the Marquise from fulfilling her dreadful plans.

Though this superbly written story is fictional, it is based on the lives of real people who lived in France during the reign of the Sun King. Though it was not proven that the Marquise tried to poison members of the royal family, she was suspected of being a poisoner and she was punished for political scheming and for dabbling in black magic. As they get deeper into the story readers will come to see how badly the nobility behaved towards both their peers and towards the common people. Servants were treated with no consideration and were discarded without a thought. After reading Marion’s story it is possible to see how times like these could have started the discontent that later grew to become a deep-rooted hatred of the well-to-do classes in France.