The Bee and the Orange Tree by Melissa Ashley

1. First lines. 2. Published 2019 Affirm Press 3. Illustration for a fairy tale by Madame d’Aulnoy By John Gilbert [Public Domain] via Wikimedia 4. Picture of Madam d’Aulnoy, based on a 17th century print. By Le Magasin pittoresque, 1870 [Public Domain] via Wikimedia 5. Photograph of endpaper.
A beautifully presented and well-researched book.

Based on the life of Baroness Marie Catherine D’Aulnoy, a pioneer writer of fairy tales, this story is set in Paris 1699. Central to the story is the plight of Angélique-Nicole Carlier Tiquet who is accused of conspiring to murder her abusive husband (and fictionalised in the story as Marie-Catherine’s friend). Another story thread is of the fictional daughter, Angeline, also a fairy tale writer, who was raised from early childhood in a convent, but now living in Paris with her mother.

“Alphonse had no understanding of what it would take for him to transform from popular salon conteur into a published author, however sophisticated his ideas, or how prettily his words read on the page. There was an immense chasm between a manuscript gaining the approval of one’s circle of friends and its being typeset and reproduced, bound inside leather-wrapped board and offered for sale in Paris’s bookshops.”

“Look at her, poised on the end of her chair, huge black eyes distracted, absently touching her ear as she rambled on, her gaunt arms scissoring wildly, the yellowed husk of her skin. Why, she was like a locust, the spurs on her legs hooked into an ear of wheat, the stem wavering, jerking her helmeted face, mandibles unlocking to feast on the fatty germ of the seed.”

‘…a marriage, however poisonous, is to be protected at all costs. There are no grounds for separation. Not adultery, not cruelty, not even fraud. Women are minors in the eyes of the law. Either they’re owned by their parents or their husbands.’

~Quotes from “The Bee and the Orange Tree” by Melissa Ashley
  • Cass Moriarty: The Bee and the Orange Tree is written in beautiful, literary language reminiscent of the time, imbued with French sensibilities and an ornately described setting. It is an intriguing mystery, the pages filled with uncertainty about the literal life or death fate of the characters. And it is a tender homage to female friendship and to the inimitable and innate power of women to bond together and to support each other in times of difficulty. Complete with a handful of reproductions of original black and white drawings, this book is an engrossing read and a lovely objet d’art.”
  • Readings: “If you are after escapism, this is the book for you. I loved spending time in late seventeenth century Paris. The food! The clothes! The salon gatherings! In addition to all this sumptuousness, there are three diverse central female characters: the Baroness Marie Catherine D’Aulnoy, an actual historical figure and the inventor of the fairytale; her daughter Angelina, who is adjusting to life outside the convent; and, finally, Nicola Tiquet, who is a close friend of Marie Catherine and is being held prisoner by her husband only to later be accused of plotting his death.”

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