The French Lesson by Hallie Rubenhold

Review published on May 18, 2016.

The French Lesson is, it seems, the second novel in a series about an 18th Century “lady of pleasure”, Henrietta Lightfoot. There are enough references to her story so far for the reader to be able to enjoy this latest episode as a stand alone book.

Henrietta, herself an aristocrat, fleeing from her parental home, journeys to France with her new lover, Baron Allenham, the love of her life. They arrive on the eve of the Revolution and Allenham disappears, apparently having deserted her. Henrietta is forced to fend for herself, and finds her only option, being, of course, very beautiful, is to become the new mistress of the Duc D’Orleans, who espouses the aims of the Revolution, and of course is to condemn his cousin, Louis XVI, to death.

Hallie Rubenhold is at pains to give the novel the “voice” of an 18th century work, and it is a page turning romp. Henrietta does not know whom to trust, and finds herself witnessing the horrors, explicity depicted, of the September Massacres and the breakdown of social barriers, which had always been taken for granted, and law and order as the new regime tightens its grip on France, and she is regarded as a spy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this as a good read and a page turner, and would recommend it to a reading group, perhaps for the summer, as something lighter, but not too light.

Ruth Ginarlis
Personal 4
Group 4

The French Lesson by Hallie Rubenhold
Doubleday 978-0-385-188-92 hbk Apr 2016

dir91? pbk Dec


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