Kelly Gardiner’s Goddess is an engaging version of the life of La Maupin, Julie d’Aubigny, in 17th Century France. Julie is beautiful, smart, witty and feisty. This fictional account of her last confession (and basically retelling of her life) grabs the reader’s attention right from the get-go.
“Don’t hover in the doorway like that. Come in or piss off – I don’t care either way. Who the hell are you?”
This is how Julie greets the priest confessor in the first lines of the novel – and it sets the tone for the rest of the book really well. It is clear that Julie does not suffer fools gladly and she has confidence to burn. The road Julie travelled to become the famed swashbuckling opera singer, La Maupin, is full of twists, turns, heartbreak and humour and I thought Gardiner nailed her tone throughout. Julie learns to adapt to her surroundings quickly and learns that her looks are to be her fortune and her curse very early on. Despite her strong persona, there is always the feeling that just under the surface she is very fragile and on a knife edge emotionally. It is a great depiction of an enigmatic historical figure.
It is clear that Kelly Gardiner did extensive research for this book- even down to which operatic works La Maupin performed and where she performed them. You can check out this blog to learn more about La Maupin’s life here. I started reading this book having catalogued it into our Senior Fiction collection at work, but now realise it is definitely for a young adult/adult audience! The language, whilst completely in context, is quite prolific and the relationships in the novel are most certainly for a more mature reader.
I found this a most enjoyable read – this one is definitely for the grown-ups and would suit those who like historical fiction with a bit of romance and adventure thrown in. I look forward to reading Kelly’s next project with avid interest.