Saturday, December 12, 2009

Book Review- Mme de Pompadour: Mistress of France

Usually I wait until I am finished reading a book to review it, which only seems fair, however having read this book a year and a half ago and only re-reading it now I am reminded of enough of the content and style to give it what I feel is a fair review.

Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France by Christine Pevitt Algrant, is a work of charming depth and character. It follows a largely chronological timeline, which is somewhat necessary when tracing the life of a single person. Many biographers fall into the trap of excusing or elevating their subject, and ignoring their flaws, but Ms. Algrant largely avoids this showing us instead what we know of the true feelings and hardships of this remarkable woman, sometimes even giving us a glimpse of the contradictions of character that existed; such as how truly loved Louis XV was, and yet how indifferent to her own family Mme de Pompadour could be. There is, however, always a distance when looking at Madame de Pompadour, wherein we are not able to put ourselves in her shoes. So many of her actions are seen through the eyes of others, and the machinations she used were so well-concealed that they remain speculatory.

The one thing that I wish had been touched on more in the book was the relationship that Mme de Pompadour had with children, especially her own daughter, Alexandrine. It is reported almost in passing that Alexandrine was born, almost certainly the true daughter of Jean-Antoinette's husband, and that she died in 1754, around the same time that the King had a daughter with another mistress. Other than that though, there were less than five pages wherein Alexandrine was even mentioned, and then only in the context of her mother's ambitions. Perhaps this is because that is all that her daughter was to Mme de Pompadour, a chess piece to be manuevered; but if that were the case it still might bear more elaboration, but this is only my opinion.

Overall the book is an easy read at 291 pages, I actually zipped through it in one evening as soon as it arrived, but am now reading more slowly to savor the vignettes it offers. For a fairly thorough biography of a beautiful, intelligent and cunning woman who was a major player in her time, this is an excellent start.


  1. A brilliantly written review and now I'll have to add it to my to be read pile. Your passion for the era is evident and it makes reading what you write a delight.
    Warmest regards,

  2. Thank You, Simone, I hope you find the book as delightful as I have.