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The Valley Of Heaven And Hell: Cycling In The Shadow Of Marie Antoinette Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
I found myself enjoying the historical detail equally as much as the domestic frissons, and the fact that you really care about the writer (and her long suffering husband...) only serves to enhance both the tale and the historical context.
If you seek a well-written insight through a small window of history from a seductively normal perspective, with the added bonus of a beautifully observed real-life domestic backdrop, take a punt with this; a charming diversion.
I loved it!
I've bought other books by Susie Kelly before. Like the best travel writers, I find that time passes quickly in her company. This time the title gives a clue as to the emotional roller coaster you can expect. Kelly is certainly plucky but a natural athlete she is not and much of the book's humour derives from the toll the 750km `marathon' takes on her body and her appearance. I certainly never knew that you could get cold sores on your nose. And I was pleased that her `martyr partner', Terry, was mentioned in the acknowledgements because his easy-going nature and fortitude were needed when the going got tough, which it did. Despite a number of incidents, one involving couscous of all things, their friendship seemed to survive the ordeal.
When it's funny it's laugh-out-loud funny, and when it's sad it is heart-breaking. History provides the foil to the author's wry and informative observations about the French countryside, weather, towns, cities, food, people, customs and people. I thought it would all be about Marie Antoinette and a lot of it is, but the author uncovers interesting historical details from other periods, all along the route. But the thread is provided by the Austrian (that was a surprise) Queen and the tale is harrowing and gut-wrenching. You know how it ends but there's still much to give away, so I won't. All in all it's another thoroughly enjoyable read from this author.
I think The Valley Of Heaven And Hell, cycling in the shadow of Marie Antoinette is a very well-written 'patchwork-story' of the author and husband Terry's frolics on the velo, Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI's tragic life, and the combination of history, deep emotions, religion (and anti-religion) made for a solid write.
Besides, combining it all within the sheer madness of two people doing all that on bicycles: brilliant.
Ms Kelly touched me deeply at points (to tears, actually, especially where her own feelings and memories were concerned and made for her emotional reaction to certain historic places) and angered me every once in a while, by telling me too often how awful she looked (she must have, though). Terry's eternal need for food made me grin, but after an even more moving relate about Marie Antoinette and Louis, I felt like bashing him over the head. And Marie Antoinette and Louis? How sad, how very sad to end your young life like that. Served them right? There, too, Suzie Kelly manages to show the so very human side of these human beings, damned to be born to become kings and queens.
In my humble opinion, The Valley Of Heaven And Hell, cycling in the shadow of Marie Antoinette is a lovely, funny, touching, fascinating, instructive book, a darn good tourist guide for one specific part of France and if, at school, children would get history lessons like this one, they'd be much more interested, I'm sure.
I'd received a free copy of Susie's book and was determined to read it over Easter. Sitting in a bay on Waiheke Island, New Zealand, just added to the enjoyment. If you're the slightest bit interested in the French Revolution, not to mention travelling in France, then you'll appreciate Susie's knowledge of history and fun with words.
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A bit too much history for me.Read more
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