here’s what I’ve been reading lately:
The Exchange of Princesses by Chantal Thomas
So, you have a story to tell. But you’re undecided. Should you write a novel or a non-fiction work about it? Chantal Thomas solved the problem by writing both. In the same book. Half-novel, half-essay, The Exchange Of Princesses is as interesting as it is challenging to read.
It tells the story of a real exchange of princesses. Mariana Victoria, infanta of Spain, left her country to marry Louis XV. At the same time, Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans, daughter of Philippe d’Orleans, regent of France, left her home for Spain, to marry the heir to the Spanish throne. But both marriages, which promised to exalt Philippe’s prestige and power, ended in tragedy.
The four spouses were all pretty young, and unable to decide of their own destinies. It must have been terrifying for such young girls (Mariana Victoria was just a child and Louise Elisabeth barely a teenager), to leave their countries behind and start again in a foreign place, among total strangers. Their pain, confusion, and isolation oozes from the pages and makes you feel for them. Unfortunately, it is hidden under a plethora of historical facts that would make for a very interesting read in a biography. In a novel, they just the story down and make it harder to follow it. The convoluted writing style doesn’t help either.
I wish Thomas had written either a novel or a double biography. She definitely has the skill to do either. Instead, she penned this distant and disjointed hybrid that makes it impossible to read more than one chapter at a time. I only recommend it to readers who are really eager to know more about these women and their sad marriages.
Available at: Amazon
The Richest Man Who Ever Lived: The Life and Times of Jacob Fugger by Greg Steinmetz
If you’ve ever been to Germany, you’ve probably heard the name of Jacob Fugger so many times you’ve lost count of them. But outside the country, he is unknown. And yet, he was one of the most influential and richest man who ever lived. A Renaissance banker, he pursued wealth for its own sake (a radical idea at the time), revolutionised the art of making money (our modern financial system owns him a lot), created the first news service, and was at the centre of a powerful network that numbered emperors and Popes among its members. Fugger lent to them generously, but always when he was in his interest. He wasn’t afraid to refuse them something or ask them to repay their debts. This nerve was only one of his secrets. The other was his ability to spot opportunities and pioneer new technologies where others only saw risks. But all this came at a cost. He was despised by many, possibly even his own wife.
Steinmetz does a great job at telling Fugger’s own story and put it back in the context of his time. It is a story full of plots and intrigues, wars and battles, losses and triumphs, extreme wealth and extreme poverty. It is also partly our own story. You could say that he helped trigger the Reformation, get the Catholic Church to revise its position on money lending and usury, and create our modern financial system. His story provides an important piece of the puzzle on how we got here. I highly recommend you give it a read.
Available at: Amazon
Aftermath – The Makers of the Post-War World by Richard M Crowder
A lot has been written about World War II. But very little is known of what happened just afterwards. A bunch of men got together to rebuild the world and launch a new era of globalisation. Some of them are well-known figures, like Churchill and Truman. Others are diplomats and agents whose name most of us have long forgotten, if ever we have known them. This book tells their story. The story of their diplomatic conflicts and clashes. The story of how they created the NATO, United Nations, the IMF, and Marshall Plan. Little stories and anecdotes about how these men worked, lived, and played.
Although a little dry in places, the book is both fascinating and informative, and provides a good introduction to an era that, although largely neglected today, has helped shaped our world. If you’d like to know more about it, pick up a copy.
Available at: Amazon
What do you think of these books?
Disclaimer: these books were sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.