Immerse Yourself in Bastille Day

By Jen B and Ann G

This Monday, July 14, is the 225th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille – when Parians invaded the fortress and prompted the French Revolution. The Bastille was for them a symbol of everything the uncaring old regime and its bloated monarchy stood for. The violence and passion of the attack made it clear to King Louis XVI that things might not end up going his way. Here below, two librarians share ways to commemorate the anniversary!

For a local hit of French culture (and, more importantly, food), travel to the distant reaches of Madison Valley for Bastille Bash 2014, where you’ll find live music, wine tasting, gourmet comestibles, and other festivities! And then when you’re home again, try some of these great titles…


Ann says: If you’re interested in the bloody origins of what is now a French National holiday, start with a great overview in Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. In it, history geek Simon Schama does for the French Revolution what he did for British history in similarly magisterial style. He relates not only the broad sweep of events, but also the day-to-day stories that affected them.


Jen says: And if you want to see the bloody result of the French Revolution from the citizens’ perspectives, both in Paris and in London, don’t miss A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. You will never forget Madam Lafarge knitting as she watches the guillotine cull aristocratic heads.

Ann says: A poignant story of a Bourbon royal after the revolution belongs to Marie-Thérèse, Marie Antoinette’s only surviving child. In Marie-Thérèse, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter, we meet this deposed princess, who saw her parents beheaded and spent years in jail herself before she was seventeen.




Jen says: If you enjoy biographical fiction, read Sena Jeter Naslund’s Abundance, an intimate and fresh portrayal of Marie Antoinette as told by the queen herself, from her birth as a citizen of France at age 14 to her death by beheading.




Marie Antoinette's Head
Marie Antoinette’s Head


Ann says: And then, for lighter fare, spend yet more time with “Let them eat cake” herself. Marie Antoinette is known as the queen with the amazing hair, and Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen and The Revolution gives us the creator of that hair (called Le Pouf), Leonard Autie. The tale of their relationship is a perfect confection for a summer afternoon!



Farewell My Queen
Farewell My Queen


Also, don’t miss Les adieux à la reine (Farewell, My Queen), a gorgeous costume drama about the final days of Marie Antoinette as witnessed by her reader and close companion.


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