Marie Antoinette’s Head by Will Bashor with Excerpt and Giveaway
Today I have a unique treat: an historical scholarly work that reads and feels more fiction, while not skipping a beat on the information presented or provided. Please be sure to check the other stops on this tour, and be sure that you read the excerpt and then enter to win one hardcover copy of the title. Open to US/Canada entrants only, contest ends at 23.59 EST on 9 February, 2014.
There is something so intriguing and familiar about your trusted hairdresser, and believe it or not, Marie Antoinette had the same relationship with the flamboyant and talented Leonard Autié. This book is steeped in historical fact, it should read like a biography with footnotes, but it is so cleverly phrased and written that it reads much like an historical fiction.
Autié is outré and talented, a provincial background with parents who served as servants to the minor gentry in his hometown. Brazen and arrogant, the demeanor would have not worked had he not been so talented and determined to dress the finest heads in the land, he would have remained an obscure footnote in history. Yet his talent and connections brought him to the theatre to dress a lesser-known and lesser-talented actress, the change he wrought brought her instant attention, and raised his status.
Any lesser ego would have been daunted on introduction to Marie Antoinette: instead he crafted hairstyles so elaborate they demanded attention, and the wearer was instantly the talk of the town.
From dressing the ladies of the court, to styling the queen, Autié managed to be in the center of the gossip throughout the court: a self-preservation instinct honed to a fine point, he manages to avoid the appearance of ‘spreading’ rumor while gathering and sharing the information drops from the lips of those in his chair. There is a curious selective eyesight of the privileged of the day; whether it comes from the familiarity with being served, or seeing those who are catering to your every whim as invisible and less than worthy of regard: servants are invisible: see everything, hear everything and barely given a second thought.
While Autié could have been left unnoticed in the volumes of information he provides an engaging and captivating player in the events: from his close relationship as friend and advisor to the often petulant and difficult Marie, to his willingness to spy and gather information for the royal family before their demise, to his own great risk. Will Bashor took, what could have been a fairly dry, scholarly account of the events, and managed to bring a lightness and sense of Autié’s voice and demeanor to the story, making this history read a great entrée into the genre. Thoroughly researched and including illustrations of the hairstyles; some decorated with candles, jewels and birds. While my neck ached looking at the elaborate coiffures, the illustrations also reminded me of the over-decorated, gilt-laden furnishings that were created in the same era.
Title: Marie Antoinette's Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution
Author: Will Bashor
Genre: Biography / Memoir, Historical Non-Fiction, Non Fiction
Published by: Lyon's Press
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
About the Book:
Marie Antoinette has remained atop the popular cultural landscape for centuries for the daring in style and fashion that she brought to 18th century France. For the better part of the queen’s reign, one man was entrusted with the sole responsibility of ensuring that her coiffure was at its most ostentatious best. Who was this minister of fashion who wielded such tremendous influence over the queen’s affairs? Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, and the Revolution charts the rise of Leonard Autié from humble origins as a country barber in the south of France to the inventor of the Pouf and premier hairdresser to Queen Marie-Antoinette.
By unearthing a variety of sources from the 18th and 19th centuries, including memoirs (including Léonard’s own), court documents, and archived periodicals the author, Professor Will Bashor, tells Autié’s mostly unknown story. He chronicles Leonard’s story, the role he played in the life of his most famous client, and the chaotic and history-making world in which he rose to prominence. Besides his proximity to the queen, Leonard also had a most fascinating life filled with sex (he was the only man in a female dominated court), seduction, intrigue, espionage, theft, exile, treason, and possibly, execution. The French press reported that Léonard was convicted of treason and executed in Paris in 1793. However, it was also recorded that Léonard, after receiving a pension from the new King Louis XVIII, died in Paris in March 1820. Granted, Leonard was known as the magician of Marie-Antoinette’s court, but how was it possible that he managed to die twice?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.