Kate Forsyth’s The Blue Rose moves between Imperial China and France during the ‘Terror’ of the French Revolution and was inspired by the true story of the quest for a blood-red rose.
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The Blue Rose Synopsis
Viviane de Faitaud has grown up alone at the Chateau de Belisama-sur-le-Lac in Brittany, for her father, the Marquis de Ravoisier, lives at the court of Louis XVI in Versailles. After a hailstorm destroys the chateau’s orchards, gardens and fields an ambitious young Welshman, David Stronach, accepts the commission to plan the chateau’s new gardens in the hope of making his name as a landscape designer.
David and Viviane fall in love, but it is an impossible romance. Her father has betrothed her to a rich duke who she is forced to marry and David is hunted from the property. Viviane goes to court and becomes a maid-in-waiting to Marie-Antoinette and a member of the extended royal family. Angry and embittered, David sails away from England with Lord Macartney, the British ambassador, who hopes to open up trade with Imperial China.
In Canton, the British embassy at last receives news from home, including their first reports of the French Revolution. David hears the story of ‘The Blue Rose’, a Chinese fable of impossible love, and discovers the blood-red rose growing in the wintry garden. He realises that he is still in love with Viviane and must find her.
(Vintage Australia, July 2019)
That I ordered The Blue Rose as a gift for my Mum sight unseen (before reading a review) is a sure indication of my respect and admiration of not just Kate Forsyth’s authorial talent, but also my confidence in her consistently delivering a quality product. My Mum read The Blue Rose in a matter of days. I too have now emerged from this, the latest epic spell Forsyth has conjured around historical fact.
I do not always read Author Notes, but Forsyth’s are a must. She is known for her dedication to (some might say obsession with) research before putting pen to paper. For me, the post narrative reveal, learning of story element origins whether factual or imagined, is all part of the Forsyth reading experience. Many a gap in my formal education in history has been filled by these.
Characters and themes
While the geographic and emotional scope of this novel is vast, its narrative and themes are more straight-forward than some of her previous historical fiction, e.g. the exquisitely complex plotting in Beauty in Thorns.
In The Blue Rose, no matter the distance between them, the spotlight shines strong on free-thinking romantic leads Viviane and David as they challenge barriers dictated solely by birth. That their inherent goodness to others and devotion to each other is reflected even in their darkest of moments, makes for compelling reading.
Memorable tertiary characters add wonderful charm and colour to this story; their depth of characterisation, a source of opposition and spark, and the folklore, the magic. But, as the pendulum of history swings, each in their own way serves as further example of inequity or persecution based on factors outside an individual’s control. A timely reminder that two wrongs do not make right, and the need to be ever vigilant of societal constructs that limit agency.
The Blue Rose is another stirring historical romance from Kate Forsyth, blooming with substance.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5 — Overall 4.25
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Genre: Action-Adventure, Historical, Romance, Drama
Other books by Kate I highly recommend:
Kate Forsyth, the Author
Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and has since sold more than a million copies around the world. Her books include Bitter Greens, a retelling of Rapunzel which won the 2015 American Library Association Award for Best Historical Fiction; The Wild Girl, the story of the forbidden romance behind the Grimm Brothers’ famous fairy tales, which was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013; and The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ set in the underground resistance to Hitler in Nazi Germany. Recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 15 Novelists, Kate Forsyth has been called ‘one of the finest writers of this generation’. She has a BA in literature, an MA in creative writing and a doctorate in fairy tale studies, and is also an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers. Read more about her at www.kateforsyth.com.au