So, I like this guest post by Sherwood Smith, just up over at Fantasy Book Cafe.
Modern history toward the front, grading into this:
“There were also the games, such as ‘portraits’. These are verbal, or written, pictures of famous court figures, delving behind the courtly mask. One is described cleverly, sometimes in poetry, and perhaps secrets revealed or alluded to. Then participants must guess who is depicted.
Madame de Sevigny and her cousin Bussy-Rabutin were hailed everywhere as quite good at this game, but where the latter confined himself to scoring off the king’s mistresses with his wickedly apt observations (and ended up kicking his heels in the Bastille), Madame Sevigny was far more delicate. And insightful.
She was also good friends with one of the blockbuster best-seller novelists of the day, Madame de la Fayette, whose La Princesse de Clèves went through countless editions. Everyone in Europe was reading it, as well as her other works. Now it is sometimes counted as the first modern French novel, the first psychological novel, but for centuries, the only writers of the period you heard about in school were Moliere, Descartes, Cervantes, and of course the great (male) writers of England.
Yet I venture to say that Madame de la Fayette was at least as influential; people were not only buying her novels for the stories, they were using them to winnow out the ways of court. Or, put a different way, the novels had become guides to civilization, the rules of etiquette. And what is more fundamental in shaping the way we behave and think?”
French history and the history of women writers — very interesting to read about! There’s lots more in this post, which you should certainly click through to and read if you have a moment.
But! The pressing question for me now is, since I somehow have never read anything at all by Sherwood Smith, what should I try? I like complicated history and politics in a fantasy novel, so lots of them sound good.
I will say I just picked up a couple of titles on my Kindle, but I picked them pretty much at random from a long, long list of titles. Anybody Sherwood Smith fans out there want to give me an extra pointer?