• The School of Mirrors

  • A Novel
  • By: Eva Stachniak
  • Narrated by: Ell Potter
  • Length: 16 hrs and 51 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (53 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A scintillating, gorgeously written historical novel about a mother and a daughter in 18th-century France, beginning with decadence and palace intrigue at Versailles and ending in an explosive new era of revolution.

During the reign of Louis XV, impoverished but lovely teenage girls from all over France are sent to a discreet villa in the town of Versailles. Overseen by the king’s favorite mistress, Madame de Pompadour, they will be trained as potential courtesans for the king. When the time is right, each girl is smuggled into the palace of Versailles, with its legendary Hall of Mirrors. There they meet a mysterious but splendidly dressed man who they’re told is merely a Polish count, a cousin of the queen. Living an indulgent life of silk gowns, delicious meals, and soft beds, the students at this “school of mirrors” rarely ask questions, and when Louis tires of them, they are married off to minor aristocrats or allowed to retire to one of the more luxurious nunneries. 

Beautiful and canny Veronique arrives at the school of mirrors and quickly becomes a favorite of the king. But when she discovers her lover’s true identity, she is whisked away, sent to give birth to a daughter in secret, and then to marry a wealthy Breton merchant. There is no return to the School of Mirrors.

This is also the story of the king’s daughter by Veronique - Marie-Louise. Well-provided for in a comfortable home, Marie-Louise has never known her mother, let alone her father. Capable and intelligent, she discovers a passion for healing and science, and becomes an accredited midwife, one of the few reputable careers for women like her. But eventually Veronique comes back into her daughter’s life, bringing with her the secret of Marie-Louise’s birth. But the new king - Louis XVI - is teetering on his throne, and it’s a volatile time in France...and those with royal relatives must mind their step very carefully.

©2022 Eva Stachniak (P)2022 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about The School of Mirrors

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

language barrier much

I found it hard to keep up with the characters simply due to the French pronunciation of every name sounding similar. It took me at least 4hours to figure out that 1 character was a woman, & that 2 were really 1-- author flips between just the 1st name or just the last name randomly it seems for a few characters.
never-ending & title-less chapters also made it hard to follow the timeliness initially.
Aside from my personal struggle, that had me rewinding whole chapters due to sudden disoriented feelings of being entirely lost in the story line, I found the story to be captivating. I just had to know what happened & so I listened till the end & I'm glad I did.

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Can’t finish it

I just can’t get into this book. I find myself constantly needing to go back to try and make sense if it, unable to keep track of characters and at this point feel like I’m just forcing myself to try and finish it. I’ll give it another try maybe when I’m able to give it my full attention, like a plane or train ride.

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Fascinating but pedophilia nonetheless.

The first section of the book is about Louis XV’s practice of having sex with children. I found that very hard to take. The remainder of the book is unrelentingly sad. I didn’t know much about this era but this book falls in line with what I did know so it all seems plausible,

I was not emotionally engaged with the characters as they seemed concocted rather than relatable or sympathetic. I did, however, appreciate the view of what the French Revolution must have been like for those unfortunate enough to live in France during the Reign of Terror.

I wish I liked at least a couple of the characters; I found the historical aspects of the novel to be much better than the subjects.