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.
A beautifully lyrical and deeply absorbing portrait of a time, a place, and the subversive power of the imagination, The Bee and the Orange Tree, 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.
Melissa Ashley is a writer, poet, birder and academic who tutors in poetry and creative writing at the University of Queensland. Her first novel, The Birdman’s Wife, has been printed in three formats and sold more than 35,000 copies.
Image: The Bee and the Orange Tree – courtesy of Affirm Press