What was life like for the mistresses of Louis XV of France? We get a chance to see in The School of Mirrors by Eva Stachniak.
Disclaimer: I got this book for free from NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Historical fiction is certainly a popular genre. We can delve into worlds of the past, experiencing what ifs and beautiful stories of palaces and kingdoms. The School of Mirrors by Eva Stachniak takes us to 18th century France. We’re in the court of King Louis XV, but it’s not really about him.
This is a story about the women in his life. Most importantly, one of his mistresses, Veronique. She’s just a young girl whose mother sells her into being the King’s mistress (without actually realizing this fully) due to poverty. Veronique quickly becomes a favorite of the King, but what happens when she gets pregnant?
The story then follows Veronique’s daughter, Marie-Louise. Marie-Louise is cared for as the illegitimate daughter of the King but is brought up to believe that her parents abandoned her. That wasn’t the case, and Veronique will do anything she can to be reunited with her daughter.
The School of Mirrors by Eva Stachniak review
This is certainly a novel for fans of historical fiction. It isn’t too heavy with the troubles of the time period until we cover some of Louis XV’s son, Louis XVI. France is starting to revolt, and we all know what happened at the end of the 18th century.
However, this is a story mostly focused on the women of the story. We get to know Veronique well, including her opinions of her mother, realizing everything that is expected of her, and dealing with the emotions that come from becoming a favorite of the King.
There’s a focus on Veronique’s daughter, a young girl who is raised to believe something horrible. Yet, she can’t allow herself to fully believe the truth. There has to be a mom out there who loves her, and we see those mixed emotions, especially when it does come to mother and daughter reuniting.
Then there’s Queen Marie, Louis XV’s wife. She is humiliated by the King taking young mistresses, but she doesn’t beg and plead. We see this strong woman when she’s in public, someone who is concerned with the people of France. There’s this chance to remember that many of the Queen Consorts of France (and other European countries) did win the love of the people through charitable acts. Marie did everything she could considering her own position.
All the characters are rounded out. They aren’t perfect, and that’s okay. They have flaws that can sometimes make us get frustrated, but doesn’t everyone do that? It’s beautifully written, bringing out three-dimensional characters and delving into jobs in history that are often overlooked or forgotten about, such as midwifery.
The start of the book can be a little confusing as we get used to the changing viewpoints. Once you get used to it, everything starts to flow and piece together well.
The world of 18th century France comes to life. It’s not a novel you’ll want to put down.
Stars: 4.5 out of 5.