When I started reading The Hurlyburly’s Husband, I did not realize that it was actually based on real characters. Once I knew that, it made the whole book even more enjoyable. After doing a little bit of research, I found that the characters and circumstances are all historically accurate, but of course the inside story is a work of the author’s imagination.
This was a very interesting read. The author does nothing to glamorize life in seventeenth century France. I found myself quite shocked by some of the descriptions of what “civilized” society found acceptable. For example, great detail is given regarding the poor dental hygiene in that time – butter is often used to fill cavities in teeth and it melts and pours out of people’s mouths, mixed with the smell of decay. Another example is the high society women who would poop right in the middle of a ballroom (in their dress and everything!), followed by servants who would clean up after them. Quite frankly, these images were disgusting.
And yet it is somewhat refreshing in the sense that historical fiction is often romanticized to the point of sounding absolutely glamorous. It’s interesting to get a different, and likely much more realistic, view of life in those times.
The book focuses on The Marquis de Montespan and his wife, Athenais, who would later become the most famous mistress of King Louis XIV. There are moments in the book that are charming, and the love between the husband and wife is quite evident. There is a shift in the book around the middle of it where that love diminishes somewhat, and The Marquis is left feeling helpless and infuriated at losing his wife to the king. I couldn’t help but feel helpless right along with him – how horrible it would be to be married to someone that you deeply love and have to be deprived of her touch.
While most husbands in that time period would have been overjoyed to share their wives with the king, Montespan is quite different because he really does love his wife and does not want to share her. I felt myself very moved by his bold, often drastic attempts to defy the king. I also found myself feeling very sorry for him as he was humiliated again and again and looked down upon as he fell deeper into financial ruin.
This was not my favorite book in the world, but it was different, and it was interesting. Certainly not for the faint of heart (or people sensitive to crudeness), I would still say that it was certainly worth reading.
Holly has a Bachelors degree in Environmental Science and owns a small business with her husband selling fleece and hand-spun yarn. When she is not spinning yarn, she does freelance work as a graphic design artist and is highly involved in animal rescue.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Gallic Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.