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Book Reviews: Madame de Pompadour + The 13 Problems

Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France by Christine Pevitt Algrant
This is a good biography of a middle class girl groomed by her family to be a mistress. In the end she was a dangerous ideologue who became mistress of the King of France and refashioned the court, the country and European diplomacy in her own image. She paved the way for the Revolution, was arrogant, unpleasant and made unrealistic demands of the weak depression plagued Louis XV who was rendered incapable of running the country. Louis XV is seen as the worst deviant to ever sit on the throne of France but the cantankerous king’s bad judgment and the psychological dominance of his appalling mistress allowed him to be widely misjudged, fatally damaging the monarchy.

She had a dangerous hostility to anyone who didn’t grovel to her for the king’s favour. She had massive entitlement and stringent bourgeois cosmopolitanism. She wouldn’t allow anyone else to be close to the king and that included his queen and children. She was backed by her family and turned the court into her own ludicrously self-indulgent fantasy. She had no moral shame and spent wildly even as France was bankrupted by war. She was surly and spewed venomous lies about anyone she saw as against her (which was a lot of people including all ordinary citizens).

She had a wicked reputation and it was deeply unfortunate that the toxic progression of her relationship with the king went on for so long. She encouraged the king to isolate himself and become alienated from his own court and subjects so he was entirely dependant on her. She was a diabolical woman who had a perennial obsession with maintaining her place thus she lived in constant tension and conflict. She was callous and greedy and because of her, belief that the privileged should be cast down grew.

She was a spendthrift and her home is now the Palais de l’Elysee. Louis XV was completely unsuited to kingship and lost everyone’s love and respect due to his appalling neglect of his duties. His disingenuous mistress pandered to his male anxiety, accumulating more appalling power and existing in a protective bubble of privilege. Their actions showed the public the rot underneath the court leaving themselves and the heir Louis XVI open to gossip and judgement. All deep concerns were ignored; the mistress was unashamedly unjustly enriched during this infamous period.

When she died, her empty celebrity was soon forgotten in the complex and rigid hierarchy of the court. She was the absolute ruler of an absolute monarch (an emotionally disturbed king dominated by his narcissistic mistress who was imperturbable in her grasping for decades). There was no-one more powerful and no-one more corrupted by that power, leading to serious political, religious and social implications. Naturally she categorically refused to take responsibility. All her faults come across clearly despite this book attempting to show her non-existent good aside. This book is far superior to the shallow hagiography Nancy Mitford wrote about the national disgrace and her combative attitude who provoked hatred.

Best Lines:
“She gave herself like a whore, and was taken and abandoned like a whore.”

“Allow this incurable evil to persist.”

“I do not propose to mix with my neighbours.”

“The opponents of good order.”

“This is a moral painting.”

“Continuing to run everything.”

“Everyone at court was watching everyone else.”

“The miseries attached to ambition.”

“As though she had never existed.”

The 13 Problems by Agatha Christie
A collection of Miss Marple short stories and the inevitable shadow of death hangs over them.

The Tuesday Night Club
A tale of a murder carried out by emotionless distant thoughtless people. Concludes in absurdity.

The Idol House of Astarte
Sense is bulldozed to oblivion in this tale of unobtrusive murder.

Ingots of Gold
Gold and a mystery solved in fatuity.

The Bloodstained Pavement
A tale of truly unforgivable crimes.

Motive V Opportunity
Where there’s a will, there’s a way to collective outrage. The plot does not bear cursory analysis.

The Thumb Mark of St Peter
A tale of suspicion profoundly misplaced and the incessantly inquisitive Miss Marple. This was basically incompetent.

Best Line:
“Not after the horrible revelations we have heard from you!”

The Blue Geranium
A victim who does not set out to win easy sympathy. But who sent her to the eternal abyss? Who had the whispered resentments, long-incubated grudges and half-forgotten aversions? This was not solved on intellectual terms.

Best Line:
"Most men, I’m fully convinced, would have hit her over the head with a hatchet long ago.”

The Companion
A murder and no mournful sense of guilt. Not relevant.

The Four Suspects
A man does reappraisals of people he once trusted and Miss Marple helps with the exoneration. This was not textured or subtle.

Best Line:
“A suspicion that I dare not disregard.”

A Christmas Tragedy
A malicious and untrue man is not terribly nice or attractive, just an agenda setting card. This had no sincerity.

The Herb Of Death
An unexpected death ostensibly an accident is looked into. But no one is held accountable.

The Affair At The Bungalow
An un-organised and un-methodical plot is prevented by someone receiving some stern words. This creates no enthusiasm or pleasure.

Death By Drowning
A dead woman is impugned but who killed her? This was not rousing just has more meaningless conformity of village life.

Best Line:
“This worthless little slut.”
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