Choosing Versailles // Guest Post with Sally Christie, author of Sisters of Versailles

A review of THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES by Sally Christie. // dreams-etc.comSally Christie, author of THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES talks about how she chose the time period and people that she wrote about in her series. //
Happy Monday! I have a guest post from Sally Christie, the author of SISTERS OF VERSAILLES. I’ve had an interest in reading French historical fiction for awhile (and if I were to write historical fiction, there’s a castle in France that I thought I’d enjoy researching in more depth–along with those who lived in it, of course). So I wanted to know more about why she chose the subject that she did. I really enjoyed reading her post, so I hope you do too!

I love France – who doesn’t? – but I didn’t set out to write about it. In some way, it chose me! I came across the story of the Mailly Nesle sisters one night, and though I had always had a passing interest in French history, it wasn’t a particular passion. However, these sisters’ story really stood out for me, and demanded to be told.

As I dove into the research and started getting inside the minds and hearts of the main characters, I developed a strong affinity for the period. The 18th century was a time of great change – France was at the doorstep of the Enlightenment and the shocking notion that birth might not be the only determinant of fate. In some ways, the world was beginning to look a lot like ours – new comfortable furniture, lots of different foods from around the world, coffee and chocolate, newspapers – but at the same time the mentality, at least at the beginning of the century, remained firmly rooted in the past.

For the research into the sisters’ lives, I relied mostly on memoirs and biographies about Versailles and court life, where most of the (passing) mentions of them appear – there is only one book written about them, by the Goncourt brothers in the late 19th century, and it focuses on Marie Anne. At the same time as diving deep into their lives, I also went lateral and read extensively about social mores and customs. There are a lot of obscure memoires out there with funny stories and anecdotes about life at the time, which I tried to incorporate as much as possible into the book.

The best part of the research process was definitely going to France and walking in the steps of the sisters, visiting places where they lived or that were important to their lives. There were two highlights: visiting their childhood home, which still stands in Paris (on the banks of the Seine, right opposite the Louvre). It’s still called the Hotel de Mailly Nesle, and is now used as offices by the French government. A few rooms are original to how they would have been during the sisters’ lifetime, including the “golden boudoir” of their mother. Fascinating!

Another highlight was a “behind the scenes” tour of the palace of Versailles, visiting apartments that are normally off limit to visitors (only a handful of the grand state rooms are open for tourists). I got to see the actual rooms where some of the sisters lived: standing at the same windows, looking out over the same gardens, was a wild experience.

The backstage tour also revealed the reality of life for most of the inhabitants of Versailles. Such a jumble and a rat’s nest! Rooms were divided and re-divided, both vertically and horizontally (!) as more and more courtiers vied for a coveted spot in the palace. In the book one of the running themes is how large people’s apartments were – a constant source of prestige and a good way to gauge who was in favor or not. Apparently King Louis XV was constantly shuffling courtiers around, moving people in and out of rooms – one of his favorite games! A good apartment would be on a lower floor, with several rooms, perhaps even with its own water fountain, while a bad apartment might be just one small room, under the eaves, looking out over an interior courtyard… but it was still very coveted, because, well, Versailles!

You can see some pictures from that tour on my website at

Thank you so much to Sally Christie for taking the time to write this post. Check out my review to see what I thought of the book!

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  • Reply
    March 21, 2016 at 9:36 am

    This sounds like such an interesting book! I’ll have to pick it up!

  • Reply
    March 21, 2016 at 11:21 am

    I love hearing about how authors come up with their stories and character. Lovely post.

  • Reply
    Becky @ Disney in your Day
    March 21, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    This is so interesting to read about! I’ve done a lot of writing but always thought I’d be interested in historical fiction. I’ve always loved research so it’s very cool to hear about this.

  • Reply
    Miranda at Drops of Learning
    March 21, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    Oooh wow! How fun! I love historical fiction. I am definitely going to have to check this book out. It looks like she had a really great time writing it as well.

  • Reply
    March 21, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Perfect timing.I just finished the book i have been reading. I am definitely going to have to check this book out.

  • Reply
    March 23, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Wow such an interesting book, would love a copy!

  • Reply
    March 23, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    Such an inspirational read, I would love to finish the book I have been working on for quite a while now!

  • Reply
    March 24, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    I’m kind of fangirling right now. I just read the Sisters of Versailles, and it caught me off guard how much I loved it. So, I’m currently trying to learn as much about the author as I can right now. How cool is it that she got to see the Mailly-Nesle house and the famous gold boudoir?! And to take a “behind the scenes” tour of Versailles?! I wonder how she was able to arrange that…

  • Reply
    Heather J @ TLC Book Tours
    March 26, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Oh my gosh, the room shuffling – that’s crazy! I’d have gone completely nuts if I had lived in the palace.

    Even so, I do love reading these kinds of stories. They reinforce how glad I am to live in this time and place!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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