The Valley of Heaven and Hell … and Marie Antoinette …

Book titles and intros (opening lines, sentences or paragraphs) have always intrigued me; I sort of collected them once. What do you think of the title ‘The Valley of Heaven and Hell’? What do you think of the following for an intro: It is 3.00 pm in a small back road in Versailles. I am […]

Book titles and intros (opening lines, sentences or paragraphs) have always intrigued me; I sort of collected them once.

What do you think of the title ‘The Valley of Heaven and Hell’?

What do you think of the following for an intro: It is 3.00 pm in a small back road in Versailles. I am straddling my bicycle, cold, frightened and growing wetter by the minute, courtesy of a delicate but determined drizzle.

Both drew my attention and I decided that this was a book I had to read.

‘The Valley of Heaven and Hell’ by Susie Kelly is both a travel adventure and a glance at the life and death of France’s tragic Queen, Marie Antoinette, as the book’s subtitle, ‘Cycling in the Shadow of Marie Antoinette’ promises.  I have the  word tragic in italics because not all will describe her as such, rather as someone who got what she deserved.

Susie Kelly, born in London, raised in colonial Kenya and now living in rural France, had three successful non-fiction books to her name, when she and her husband Terry set off on a cycling holiday.  (The books are ‘Best Foot Forward’, ‘Two Steps Backwards’ and a ‘Perfect Circle’ published with the Transworld imprint, Bantam Books.)

At the end of the holiday, the couple had cycled 750 kilometres (466 miles) from Versailles up to and through Paris and along the route King Louis 16, Marie Antoinette and their two children had taken to escape their imprisonment in the Tuileries, an imprisonment which would eventually lead to their public decapitation.

Susie, who describes herself as a novice cyclist whose only experience with bikes had been as a child in Kenya, had set off nursing great doubts about their idea, but, thank goodness, she did not pack it in on that first night in a hotel in Paris’ Gare du Nord district, by far not the most elegant part of the French capital, because her book is a most delightful read. It draws one in right from that rainy intro and never lets one go again; one sips champagne with the couple when they are in the bubbly world of Champagne, one wishes they’d booked into a hotel when they are uncomfortable sleeping in  a tent at a campsite, and one thinks, ‘hey, I must go here’, when the two are in the Saint Denis Cathedral north of Paris where Marie Antoinette and her husband had finally ended up just as all mere mortals do – as bones.

Marie Antoinette

You might have gathered that I am no admirer of Marie Antoinette, indeed of royalty, but Susie Kelly’s ‘The Valley of Heaven and Hell’ did make Marie Antoinette humane as far as I am concerned.

The book is available both as a paperback and e-book. You can order both on the publisher’s website –blackbirdebooks. – or from amazon.uk and amazon.us.  You do not have to have a Kindle to be able to download the e-book, your hard disk will do. And believe me, you will love this book!

Susie Kelly is also a writer of a delightfully humorous blog:  No Damn Blog

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

3 Responses to “The Valley of Heaven and Hell … and Marie Antoinette …”

  1. 3
    Anonymous Says:

    The result is an utterly riveting and intensely moving book by one of our finest biographers….. The book showed Marie Antoinette as she really was and told nothing but the truth.

  2. 2
    Catching up | No damn blog Says:

    […] big thank you to Marilyn, who has kindly written a review of my new book. Cheers, […]

  3. 1
    Jo Wake Says:

    Whatever you think of royalty, I don’t consider the guillotine a just way for them to end up, nor for anyone else come to that, but the hundreds of nobles who went to their deaths this way have my sympathies even if their past lives were lacking any consideration for the rest of the world.

Leave a Reply

DIE IN PARIS

My book

The horrific story of WW2 French serial killer Dr Marcel Petiot, France's most prolific killer.

FOR THE LOVE OF A POET

FOR THE LOVE OF A POET

- For the Love of a Poet - a novel set in the Soviet Union.
In Paperback and e-book

BELLA … A FRENCH LIFE

A love story set in Paris and Normandy, France

A novel:
Bella ... A French Life. In Paperback and e-book

Bella … A French Life – The Cookbook

Bella … A French Life – The Cookbook

Do you like good food? Well, why not try some of Bella's recipes?

Pour L’Amour d’un Poete

French translation of my novel - For the Love of a Poet

This novel can be bought from all Amazon sites. It is available as a paperback or an e-book.

If you wish not to miss one of my blogs, do subscribe.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

HOW TO CONTACT ME

Should you wish to contact me you can do so by email: marilyn@marilynztomlins.com