Annette Vallon

Annette Vallon

4.2 39
by James Tipton

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For fans of Tracy Chevalier and Sarah Dunant comes this vibrant, alluring debut novel of a compelling, independent woman who would inspire one of the world's greatest poets and survive a nation's bloody transformation.

Set amid the terror and excitement of the French Revolution, James Tipton's evocative novel is the story of a woman who has for too long been

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For fans of Tracy Chevalier and Sarah Dunant comes this vibrant, alluring debut novel of a compelling, independent woman who would inspire one of the world's greatest poets and survive a nation's bloody transformation.

Set amid the terror and excitement of the French Revolution, James Tipton's evocative novel is the story of a woman who has for too long been relegated to the shadows of history: Annette Vallon, William Wordsworth's mistress and muse.

Born into a world of wealth and pleasure, Annette enjoys the privileges of aristocracy, but a burning curiosity and headstrong independence set her apart. Spoiled by the novels of Rousseau, she refuses to be married unless it is for passion. Yet the love she finds with a young English poet will test Annette in unexpected ways, bringing great joy and danger in a time of terror and death.

Told in sparking prose, Annette Vallon captures the courage and fearlessness of a woman whose dramatic story illuminates a turbulent and fascinating era.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Inspired by English poet William Wordsworth's continental romance on the eve of the French Revolution, Tipton's debut novel depicts the poet's lover, Annette Vallon (1766-1841), as a Loire Valley Scarlet Pimpernel. History records Wordsworth met Vallon while in France, departed for England when the revolution darkened, but came back to see her and their daughter, Caroline (born in 1792), even after he proposed marriage to an Englishwoman. Tipton begins this fictional account with 16-year-old Annette listening to her father and Thomas Jefferson discuss wine. Six years later, her virtue lost to a dance tutor and her father killed in a grain riot, Annette falls in love with the then unknown English poet. Their idyllic interlude inspires his best work, but soon his political associations place him in danger, forcing him to flee with Annette's help. Pregnant and on her own, Annette recalls early training in hunting and horsemanship to survive the Reign of Terror and beyond, with Caroline in tow. Tipton's descriptions, à la Tracy Chevalier, of how masterpieces are created alternate with the spirited heroine's adventures, making for an uneasy balance, but Annette-and those who help her along the way-are believable in their struggles through the best and the worst of times. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

This debut novel by a literature teacher relates the romance between English poet William Wordsworth and Annette Vallon, his French mistress, about whom little is actually known. Tipton attempts to fill in the blanks, exploring Annette's early life and first meeting with Wordsworth and following their relationship through the French Revolution and beyond. An exciting enough premise, but the key to strong historical fiction is rich characterization and stirring description; Tipton's effort, unfortunately, falls flat. The war is largely relegated to the background, presented with surprisingly little fanfare or drama; its existence is used only as a convenient means of separating the lovers. Further, while the romance between Vallon and Wordsworth is meant to be the main focus here, it is too often eclipsed by a love for Wordsworth's poetry and Anglo-French linguistics, presumably the author's own passion. While fans of Wordsworth's poetry will find much to love here, few others will find anything to hold their interest. Recommended only where literary fiction is popular.
—Leigh Wright

Kirkus Reviews
An adventuresome debut novel starring William Wordsworth's true-life mistress recast as a heroine during the Reign of Terror. Tipton creates a life of intrigue for Annette Vallon, present as a mere footnote in literary history, known primarily as the mother of Wordsworth's illegitimate daughter Caroline. Raised as a member of the upper bourgeoisie, Annette lived a life of privilege until the Revolution. Annette meets Wordsworth at a fete, where the young poet has been introduced into society to help improve his French. Having walked about the continent, Wordsworth has remained in France to support the noble revolution, though too soon its ideals become compromised by the paranoia of the new republic, and an Englishman is now viewed with suspicion. Nevertheless, Wordsworth and Annette begin an affair built around poetry and a mutual love of the wilds of nature, but soon enough it becomes too dangerous for Wordsworth to stay in France (his friends and associates are outraged by the increasing excesses of Robespierre's government and are soon targeted). By now Annette is pregnant and staying with her older sister, uneasy about Wordsworth's dangerous journey back to England but secure that their love is genuine (they perform their own impromptu riverside marriage vows). Caroline is born; Wordsworth is gone; and Annette must move out of the family house into a modest cottage, where Annette's real adventure begins. Soon she is hiding those in danger of being subjected to the brutality of the revolution, freeing prisoners from jail during the Reign of Terror, performing feats so courageous she becomes a virtual folk hero, known as the Mother of Orleans. Wordsworth finally returns ten yearslater, but to tell Annette of his impending marriage to an Englishwoman. The romance of the novel is secondary to Tipton's portrait of Annette as a spirited heroine in a time of desperation and danger. Though the number of great escapes she's involved in begins to veer into implausibility, Tipton is able to balance the action with the history. A pleasing literary fancy set against the terrors of the French Revolution.

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Annette Vallon

A Novel of the French Revolution
By James Tipton

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 James Tipton
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060822217

Chapter One

Remember That

But may you never have a revolution in this country," the tall American said.

We were dining at the grand house of my older sister and her husband. The American gentleman had come down from Paris in a golden carriage on some business regarding my brother-in-law's vineyard. I had not paid attention to what it was: I was only sixteen and fresh out of convent school.

"In France you enjoy the most graceful lifestyle in the world," he continued. "You value philosophy, literature, art, music, all the sciences, more than any culture I know, including my own," and he laughed. "But your ­people do not have any representation in the government. To that end, I hope they may be educated, but gradually—for if they were thrust headlong into a freedom which they have never known, it would be chaos. A revolution here would not be as it was in my country, against a foreign power; a revolution here would be . . . a disaster. But forgive me for presuming to speak on a subject of which you know far more than I. What do you think, Mademoiselle?" And his blue eyes suddenly looked directly at me.

I frantically tried to think of something, oneline from Rousseau that I had talked about with the girls because I had applied it to the despotic Sister Angèle.

"I think that since Might cannot produce Right, the only legitimate authority in human societies is agreement."

The American laughed. "That must be an enlightened convent school your parents sent you to," he said.

"I'm afraid, Monsieur, that some of us read Rousseau in secret."

"Well, for now," he said, "Rousseau may be best kept behind closed doors in France and pondered upon by fine young minds." And he turned to the men.

We were on to the duck with orange now. Our guest took a bite of the meat but held back on the sauce. I was impatient for the steaming sauceboat, placed in front of him, with its mélange of caramelized sugar, lemon and orange juices, white wine, and red currant jelly.

A servant poured a ruby wine into the one glass I was allowed at dinner. I was sure it was my brother-in-law's vintage, which he said smelled of green peppers and pea pods. He was championing a red wine in the land of famous whites. I reached for my glass, then caught Papa's eye and became aware of a curious tension at the table. Our guest, my father had told me, was the finest wine connoisseur in the New World and had a peculiarity about trying new wines. He thought they were only truly appreciated in the context of food, so he waited until dinner to make his final decisions. He had come all the way from Paris now for this moment. All his pleasant and insightful conversation, all of my sister's dinner plans and Cook's lengthy preparations, were leading to this.

The American drank some water, raised his wineglass, inspected the color within—I noticed a flame from the hearth reflected, shimmering, in the burgundy depths—swirled it gently, tipped, sniffed it—would he smell peppers and pea pods? He closed his eyes, sipped, held, and almost chewed the wine. He seemed oblivious to us, in a world of pure concentration.

I could smell the sauce, see its curling steam, and very much wanted him to pass it to me. But there was no rushing the moment. A smile gradually spread across his handsome face. He opened his blue eyes. "Monsieur Vincent," he said, "it exceeds all expectations. It must be those cool limestone caves you keep it in."

The table relaxed. Maybe he would now pour the sauce. But he held the eye of my brother-in-law. This was a moment of business transacted between gentlemen, at a table laden with duck and wine. "I will take ten cases and, with your permission, the soil samples I collected today back to Paris," the foreigner said.

I liked his hair. My father and brother-in-law had powdered wigs, and here was this bright red hair that seemed to shine in the candlelight.

Our guest lifted the porcelain boat and discreetly lavished his duck with the sauce that was now coming my way. He paused a moment and took in the fragrance. Then he returned to business. "And I will accept your offer to ship some vines to Virginia."

"I would be honored," my brother-in-law said.

"I will call it," said the American, "the Shenandoah grape."

I liked the name. "Pardon, Monsieur?"

"Yes, Mademoiselle?"

"Could you please say that name again?"

"Shenandoah," he said. "It is the river that runs near my home. Like your great river here. It is very beautiful, and I miss it. When I think of America, I do not think of the vast Atlantic seaboard and of our victory against the British Empire; I think of one small patch of rocky land on top of a cliff overlooking the river. So you remember that, Mademoiselle," and he looked at me again, his eyes twinkling.

"Remember what, Monsieur?"

"To thine own land be true," and he smiled, and my brother-in-law asked him to sample another wine, and their conversation went on, but it isn't part of my story.


Excerpted from Annette Vallon by James Tipton Copyright © 2007 by James Tipton. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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