Mistress of the Sun, by Sandra Gulland

Some years ago I read and enjoyed Sandra Gulland’s trilogy about Josephine Bonaparte, beginning with The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.  After finishing the trilogy I sort of lost track of Gulland and only recently realized that I’d missed her 2008 release, Mistress of the Sun. Fortunately a quick trip to the library was able to remedy this oversight.

Mistress of the Sun is a well-crafted and engaging historical novel about Louise de la Valliere, one of the mistresses of Louis XIV.  While the book gives a wonderful sense of life in the early years of the Sun King, when Versailles was still a hunting lodge, the most interesting part is the wonderfully detailed development of Louises’ character. She is a contradiction: a devout and rather reserved young woman who becomes the mistress of one of the most flamboyant kings in history; a court lady who was renowned for her skill, not just at horseback-riding and hunting but at such exotic tricks as standing up on the back of a galloping horse. 

I’ve long contended that one of the best things a historical novelist can do — better than a historian, in a way — is make a character, especially a relatively minor one like a king’s mistress– leap off the pages of history and into the reader’s mind as a real, three-dimensional person,  I particularly love it when authors can do this with women’s lives, since so many absolutely fascinating women of the past lived and died with so little known of their lives — and what is known, is usually known only because of the woman’s association with a powerful man.  In showing Louise’s rise to power and her inevitable fall, Sandra Gulland has been able to do just that — give life and voice to one of history’s silent women.  If you enjoy good solid historical fiction, you will like this book and I recommend it highly.



Filed under Canadian author, Fiction -- historical

2 responses to “Mistress of the Sun, by Sandra Gulland

  1. Thank you so much, Trudy. I love this review, and the historical perspective you bring to it. I’m going to post it to my Facebook pages.

    P.S. We’ve got an interesting Google Lit Trip project brewing on my Fan Page.

    Here’s about Google Lit Trip:

    As a teacher, Google Lit Trips might be of interest to you (depending on what level you teach). If you are a high school teacher, have a peak. I mention this in part because we could use a teacher on the team to help with some of the “discussion starters.”

    Here are our discussions:

    Here is what they’ve done so far:

    For Column I, we need someone with a teacher background.

    Just checking! If you or someone you know is interested, let me know.


    sgulland AT sandragulland.com

    If the project interests you,

  2. Oooh, Louis XIV! This sounds absolutely fabulous- adding it to my list immediately. Thank you!

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