Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Last Rendezvous by Anne Plantagenet

“Women are not supposed to write; yet I write.” –Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

The Last Rendezvous by Anne Plantagenet is the fictionalized biography of Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, a renowned French poet and actress. The story takes place in early 19th century France in an era where women writers were greatly discouraged.

At the end of the French Revolution, Marceline’s father, a painter of heralds and crests, finds himself without work. When he seeks solace in drink, Marceline’s mother takes Marceline and leaves the family. Together, they travel through France until they board a ship for the Carribbean in search of a wealthy relative. But upon their arrival they learn the relative is dead and soon thereafter, Marceline’s mother contracts yellow fever and dies. Marceline is forced to find her own way back home to France. When she arrives, she finds work as an actress and establishes herself in theatre. Because her true passion is writing, Marceline finds the time to pen her poetry.

The Last Rendezvous is the tale of Marceline’s struggles to escape the tragedies of her life in a never-ending search for happiness and fulfillment. Her life is not easy. Through marriage and illicit affairs with lovers, she manages to bear several children, but her heart breaks when death takes them in childhood. Only one child outlived her. Financial turmoil, frequent infidelities, and constant travel throughout France and Italy brings many challenges to her life. Although her acting career is successful, she struggles for recognition with her poetry. Soon, her written words become popular and volumes of her work were not only published, but selling well, even to this day.

Anne Plantagenet’s expressive, lyrical writing pays homage to the story of the fascinating Marceline Desbordes-Valmore. Cleverly told through flashbacks, the life and loves of this fascinating woman are slowly, but poignantly portrayed. Several of Marceline’s poems are included at the end of the novel, providing a compelling closure to this beautifully woven tale.