ready for this week’s book reviews? Here we go:
How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair by Jonathan Beckman
It was the greatest scandal of 18th century France. An almost unbelievable story that novelists would have been afraid to write for fear of being accused to be too unrealistic. And yet, it happened for real, and it left the Queen’s reputation in tatters. For some, it was even the beginning of the Revolution. I’m talking of the affair of the Diamond Necklace.
Jeanne de Saint Remy is born in an impoverished family descended by royalty that abuses and abandons her. Filled with resentment and repenting of marriying the good-for-nothing Nicolas de la Motte, she heads to court to try and reclaim her family lands or petition for a generous royal pension, but her efforts fail. But Jeanne is determined to live in style, even if that means lying, cheating, and taking advantage of everyone she knows. She befriends the Cardinal of Rohan, whose political ambitious have been thwarted, he thinks, by the Queen’s dislike of him. Jeanne is willing to help. Pretending to be a good friend of the Queen, she makes Rohan believe Marie Antoinette needs his help to buy a necklace so expensive that’s threatening to bankrupt its jewellers. Desperate to believe the Queen is ready to forgive him, he falls for it. Only when the jewellers, tired of waiting for a payment that never arrives, contact the Queen directly, the whole scam is uncovered. But who is to blame? Was Rohan a victim or an accomplish of Jean?
A trial ensued. Of all the conspirators, only Jeanne and the forger were found guilty and punished. Rohan was acquitted, which was a real blow to the monarchy. He wasn’t just acquitted of stealing the necklace, but also of the more serious crime of lese majeste. The court, apparently, found it very possible that Rohan could have believed the Queen would ask him to do her such a favour and even meet with him at night in the garden of Versailles. Once her reputation was so sullied, it was possible for the French people to believe all kinds of bad, vicious, and salacious things, about their Queen.
Beckham does a great job at presenting this complicated affair in a clear manner that allows the reader to understand how the story unfolded and why, despite its absurdity, so many people fell for it. We are introduced to the main players and their lives, both before, during, and after the affair (although those who want to know more about Marie Antoinette will be disappointed; there’s not much biographical information about her here). The author also frequently cites literature of the time to help us understand what people might have been thinking back then, providing valuable insights into Jeanne’s psychology and the public’s opinion of the trial and its infamous protagonists.
The book is widely researched and full of interesting details weaved seamlessly into the story. Well-written, it flows easily almost reads like a thriller. It’s a story of greed and ambition, crime and passion, prison breaks and assassination attempts, credulity and extravagance that captures your attention from the very beginning. Once started, it’s impossible to put down. It’s a must read for any fans of Marie Antoinette or French history.
Available at: Amazon
Tackling Selective Mutism: A Guide for Professionals and Parents by Benita Rae Smith, Alice Sluckin
I wish this book had been written 30 years ago. I suffered from selective mutism since kindergarten (the typical age of onset is between 3 and 5, although some develop it earlier or later), but at the time, no one knew what it was. Even know, it is too little known. Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder that causes people to remain silent in certain situations but talk in others. Usually, these children are very chatty at home or with close relatives and friends, but find it impossible to utter a word at school, with distant relatives, or strangers. As a result, they often appear rude and are labelled difficult and stubborn.
If left untreated, like in my case, selective mutism can become so entrenched to make it very difficult to have a social life and hold a job, causing low self-esteem and depression. The good news, though, is that, if caught in time, it is easy to treat, and remission is very rare. That’s why books like this are important. Written and edited by a wide array of experts on selective mutism, and sharing stories from sufferers and their families, the book explains what selective mutism is, what causes it, and the many therapies that can treat it. There is also a section about selective mutism in adults. Although more difficult to treat the longer left undiagnosed, there’s hope for them too.
The book also explains what rights children and parents have under UK law, and lots of tips on how families, teachers, friends, and anyone else who knows a person affected, regardless of where they live, can help. At the end, you’ll find lots of resources you can consult and organizations you can turn to for help.
Because the book is written by professional, the writing style is mostly academic (but not boring). The sections written by sufferers and their families are in a more colloquial and engaging style that allows the reader to better relate to them. Their stories are very touching. It really moved me to read about how these children were helped and eventually cured. Too many aren’t and, I hope that as awareness towards selective mutism, even thanks to this book, rises, their positive stories will be the rule rather than the exception everywhere.
This book is an invaluable resource to anyone who is affected by selective mutism. But everyone else should read it too. If you don’t think you need to because you don’t know anyone with this disorder, then reading it may make you realise that you actually do. This disorder is more common than people think and highly misunderstood. And if you really don’t know anyone with it, you can still help by raising awareness. The more people know about it, the easier it will be for families and teachers to identify sufferers and help them seek appropriate help.
Available at: Amazon
Retrain Your Anxious Brain: Practical and Effective Tools to Conquer Anxiety by John Tsilimparis
While a small amount of anxiety has its pros (read the book to find out more), worrying too much about things can cause unnecessary fear, even panic attacks, and doubts that negatively impact your self-esteem and every area of your life. John Tsilimparis know this only too well. He suffered from severe anxiety and, once he learned how to free himself from it, he became a therapist to help others who are still battling with it.
In this book, he first explains how anxiety works and then shares the tools and techniques that helped him recover. They are all cognitive, and range from challenging old beliefs to replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones, from focusing on gratitude to changing the way to interact with other people. He proposes lots of exercises to try. Not everything will work for everyone, so you are encouraged to choose those that best apply to your situation and needs. While these tips are all, undoubtedly, extremely useful and will greatly help sufferers reduce their anxiety, some people may be disappointed by the lack of alternative and holistic treatments.
The book flows really easy. The writing style is clear and engaging and, because the author shares his experiences and those of his (anonymous) patients, it is easy to relate to. I highly recommend it to anyone who suffers from excessive anxiety. Anyone here will find at least a few tips that can help them get better.
Available at: Amazon
Have you read these books, or are you planning to?
Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.