Based on the actual papers and letters of Count Axel von Fersen, the Swedish diplomat with a romantic attachment to Marie Antoinette, this novel is written in the form of a memoir edited and supplemented by Fersen’s sister Sophie. Sophie’s few chapters allow author Francine Du Plessix Gray to convey information Fersen himself couldn’t or wouldn’t, his own death at the hands of an anti-aristocratic mob for instance, but most of the story is Fersen’s bittersweet memories many years after the events surrounding the French Revolution. It was Fersen who arranged the French royal family’s daring but ultimately unsuccessful escape attempt when revolutionaries forcibly moved them to Paris. Before that he was a regular visitor to Versailles, Marie Antoinette’s opulent but foul-smelling palace home, and he spent happy hours lingering with the queen at her private retreat, La Petit Trianon. Fersen wasn’t in France when Louis XVI or Marie Antoinette were condemned to death and guillotined, those events while still gripping are written at a distance because he’s reporting what he learned rather than what he saw and did, but his outsider’s perspective has the advantage of being more pan-European and it’s fascinating to have a glimpse of how other counties and royal houses are reacting to the upheavals in France. Catherine the Great comes into play a few times, and there is a lot about the changing circumstances of the royal families in Sweden and Austria. The charged ideas and cultural transformations behind French Revolution continued to reverberate through Europe, its effects leading to Fersen’s vicious murder in his native Sweden almost twenty years later.