Enchanting and Intriguing: A Review of The Bee and the Orange Tree by Melissa Ashley

Enchanting and Intriguing: A Review of The Bee and the Orange Tree by Melissa Ashley

A wonderfully lyrical and stunning piece of historical fiction, Melissa Ashley’s The Bee and the Orange Tree transports you to Paris 1699, while telling the captivating and forgotten story of Baroness Marie Catherine D’Aulnoy, the inventor of fairy tales.

In 1699, Paris was close to bursting with the creative energy of fierce, independent-minded women. But their freedoms were limited, and were being curbed more and more. The patriarchal forces of Louis XIV and the Catholic Church were in full force. But females had a powerful ally and secret weapon in this battle for equality: Baroness Marie Catherine D’Aulnoy and her invention of ‘fairy tales’.

Marie Catherine’s daughter, Angelina, arrives in Paris for the first time, completely swept away by the beauty, glamour and sensuality of the city. She has lived in a convent previously and Paris is a world where a woman can live freely, without needing to be within the church, or safely married. It is a world of exciting new possibilities. But these new possibilities and then fragile freedom are under attack, which Angelina learns quickly when her mother’s friend Nicola Tiquet is arrested, accused of conspiring to murder her abusive husband. As Angelina and Marie Catherine race to rescue Nicola, and discover the truth, all three women will have their illusions shattered, and learn of dark secrets that have been kept well-hidden. They will learn just how far they are willing to go to preserve their liberty and freedom in a time and place determined to control them.

Melissa Ashley’s debut novel The Birdman’s Wife was a bestseller, so her second novel, The Bee and the Orange Tree has been keenly awaited, and it is easy to understand why. Her writing is beautifully descriptive, describing the minute details of the clothing, the hairstyles, the architecture of the time, so much that you can almost even taste and smell the food, as if you were sitting down to banquet with the characters. The sheer amount of research that has gone into this book is astounding. You would be forgiven for having been completely transported to Paris 1699.

Ashley also does a remarkable job of restoring an amazing, yet little-known historical woman to her rightful place in history. Fairy tales are often thought to be a simple part of everyday life, but often we don’t think about where they were invented. And when we do, it is usually Hans Christian Andersen or The Grimm Brothers that come to mind. To find out that there was a woman, some 100+ years earlier who was writing fairy tales was an amazing revelation. The Bee and the Orange Tree is beautiful, an enchanting, intriguing, rich tale of the strength of women and of writing, and of the power of the imagination.

Buy a copy of The Bee and the Orange Tree here

About the Author:

Melissa Ashley is a writer, poet, birder and academic who tutors in poetry and creative writing at the University of Queensland. She has published a collection of poems, The Hospital for Dolls, short stories, essays and articles. What started out as research for a PhD dissertation on Elizabeth Gould became a labour of love and her first novel, The Birdman’s Wife. Inspired by her heroine, she studied taxidermy as a volunteer at the Queensland Museum. Melissa lives in Brisbane.

Reviews

Stunning Historical Fiction: Read an Extract from The Bee and the Orange Tree by Melissa Ashley

Review | Extract

29 October 2019

Stunning Historical Fiction: Read an Extract from The Bee and the Orange Tree by Melissa Ashley

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    I Realised She Would Make an Excellent Character for a Novel: Q&A with Melissa Ashley, Author of The Bee and the Orange Tree

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      Publisher details

      The Bee and the Orange Tree
      Author
      Melissa Ashley
      Publisher
      Affirm Press
      Genres
      Australian Fiction, History
      Released
      29 October, 2019

      Synopsis

      It’s 1699, and the salons of Paris are bursting with the creative energy of fierce, independent-minded women. But outside those doors, the patriarchal forces of Louis XIV and the Catholic Church are moving to curb their freedoms. In this battle for equality, Baroness Marie Catherine D’Aulnoy invents a powerful weapon: ‘fairy tales’.When Marie Catherine’s daughter, Angelina, arrives in Paris for the first time, she is swept up in the glamour and sensuality of the city, where a woman may live outside the confines of the church or marriage. But this is a fragile freedom, as she discovers when Marie Catherine’s close friend Nicola Tiquet is arrested, accused of conspiring to murder her abusive husband. In the race to rescue Nicola, illusions will be shattered and dark secrets revealed as all three women learn how far they will go to preserve their liberty in a society determined to control them.This keenly-awaited second book from Melissa Ashley, author of The Birdman’s Wife, restores another remarkable, little-known woman to her rightful place in history, revealing the dissent hidden beneath the whimsical surfaces of Marie Catherine’s fairy tales. The Bee and the Orange Tree is a beautifully lyrical and deeply absorbing portrait of a time, a place, and the subversive power of the imagination.
      Melissa Ashley
      About the author

      Melissa Ashley

      Melissa Ashley is a writer, poet, birder and academic who tutors in poetry and creative writing at the University of Queensland. She has published a collection of poems, The Hospital for Dolls, short stories, essays and articles. What started out as research for a PhD dissertation on Elizabeth Gould became a labour of love and her first novel, The Birdman’s Wife. Inspired by her heroine, she studied taxidermy as a volunteer at the Queensland Museum. Melissa lives in Brisbane.

      Books by Melissa Ashley

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      1. From the first word of this review to the last you had my attention. Like most others, I’m sure, I did not know that a woman wrote the first fairy tales. And in times when life for a woman was ruled by men and freedom to do as they wished was unheard of. I am so very much intrigued by Marie Catherine D’Aulnoy. I am definitely wanting to read her story as told in this novel by Melissa Ashley