The Orange Trees of Versailles
A very different picture of the court of the Sun King. This novel, written for young adults, is another one with an intriguing and original enough premise to be appropriate for adults. Marion is a “nose,” which is explained in historical and sociological context in a neat note following the book, along with a genial explanation of how perfumes were used then, slightly differently than we use them today. Noses have senses of smell so acute that they can recognize any smell they have encountered before—not always a blessing! They make outstanding creators of perfumes. Young Marion, whose favorite scent is of oranges from her father’s orange groves, gets taken into the palace to serve Madame du Montespan, who soon finds Marion really useful in her never-ending quest to keep the king dangling. Since the Marquisa is a conniving golddigger (the scene where she pigs out because the king has snubbed her is great), the young perfumist comes to change her mind about her patronesses’ good intentions and manages to thwart a plot to feed the royal couple poison candy. The glittering surface and the greedy undertow of the French court are certainly present, but in this novel, it’s a bit gentler and a tad kinder for this one simple French girl. Very pleasant reading.