Béjart’s Caravan

Written by Bonnie Stanard
Review by Xina Marie Uhl

Set in 17th-century France, the title’s caravan shuttles actors from the Augusto Troupe through villages, towns, and the countryside. The actors form a colorful company indeed, and the narrative switches point of view frequently from troupe director to lead actress to a young actor coming of age, among others. Character-focused, the tale follows the troupe through their adventures with peasants, nobles, religious fanatics, and the dreaded plague, always in the shadow of the great French writer, actor, and poet Molière.

Divided into scenes instead of chapters, the novel has a rowdy, bawdy feel, extending to the dialogue (“Huzzah! To the King’s cock!”) and scene titles such as “a story about a fart.” The characters and their swelling bosoms, cracking voices, and ribald adventures never fail to entertain. Indeed, the Augusto Troupe displays “few virtues and many vices.”

Stanard wields the deft pen of an experienced novelist as she relays this earthy, delightfully period-appropriate tale. It’s filled with vivid details that makes France and its people come to life, and readers can rest assured that their money is well-spent on this rousing tale of ambition, art, and the foibles of human beings.