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Customer Review

The distinctive thing about this book is that it is clearly written , not for the professional historian or intellectual but for the average intelligent reader with an interest in French. This is partly due to Ian Dunlop's skilful and frequent use of contemporary sources. His characters are allowed to speak for themselves and this contributes much to the "atmosphere" Instead of giving his own views on the persecution of the Huguenots, he gives us the verbatim account of one of the victims of the dragonnades and one of those condemned to the slavery of the galleys. But although Ian Dunlop exposes all the cruelties, injustices and the disregard for the suffering of the poor, he also highlights the relatively few attempts to mitigate the latter. He seems to be reluctant to pass judgements but prefers to put his readers in a position to make their own. As an acknowledged expert on French architecture, Ian Dunlop uses this to bring to life the palaces of Versailles, Marly, Fontainebleau and Chambord and leaves us in little doubt that building was Louis' dominant passion. At a time when France was starving after a freak winter, humiliated by the victories of Marlnorough and facing a formidable crisis in her finances, over two and a half million livres were spent on the construction and decoration of the new Chapel at Versailles. Ian Dunlop sees Louis' true greatness as the enabler behind the brilliant achievements of the architects, musicians, artists and authors which justify the term "Le Grand Siecle" and brings it to life with his 24 pages of illustrations. His selection is interesting and often original and includes two of his own watercolours at Versailes and of Chantilly as the Grand Conde would have known it. For all visitors to Versailles, this book is a must !
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