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from Reviews (ADR)
concerning Les Louves de Machecoul

     A historical novel set in La Vendée (in the environs of Nantes) in 1832. In 1830, the last Bourbon King, Charles X, was forced to abdicate in favour of Dumas' employer, Louis Philippe (1773-1850), who styled himself "King of the French" and endeavoured to rule as a constitutional monarch.
     In 1832, the widowed mother of the young Bourbon pretender, Henri V, Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Sicilie (1798-1870), the Countess de Berry, made a clandestine return from exile and attempted to lead an uprising against Louis-Philippe in favor of her son. Her supporters generally refused to take up arms, except in La Vendée, the center of Royalist opposition to the French Revolution, and the scene of savage partisan warfare in the 1790's. There, an abortive upraising was suppressed by Government forces, and tailed off into banditry.
     From this episode, Dumas fashioned an immense and very interesting novel. The eponymous "Louves de Machecoul" are the beautiful twin daughters of the Marquis de Souday, a royalist partisan fighter who fled into exile when Napoleon suppressed the resistance, and returned to reclaim his ancestral lands in 1815. The family are all ardent Legitimists--supporters of the Countess de Berry.
     The twins encounter the wimpy Michel, son of a commoner who had become rich by betraying the Royalist guerillas to Napoleon’s forces, who, after the war, is killed in a suspicious hunting accident. Michel, smitten with the twins, promptly offers his services to the Legitimist cause. Michel fights bravely in the uprising and falls in love with Mary, while the other twin, Berthe, falls in love with Michel. Through a misunderstanding, Michel is betrothed to the wrong twin.
     As the revolution collapses, the characters find themselves hunted by the Government forces of the energetic General Dermoncourt, and continually subject to betrayal and arrest.
     Alexandre Dumas was a proponent of a set of antique and aristocratic virtues: duty, honor, courage, and loyalty. In Louves de Machecoul these virtues lead to a pointless war. General Dermoncourt, in his tribute to the Countess de Berry, describes her as "having been born two centuries too late." The Countess who believes that duty requires her to struggle to uphold her son's rights, learns that the struggle requires the death of her most devoted adherents.
     This novel, with its flashes of ambivalence, realistic descriptions of guerilla war, emotional growth of its characters, and insight into the tensions of post-revolutionary France, suggests that the mature Dumas had become a wiser and more thoughtful man than course of many of his earlier novels would have suggested.

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