by Molly Greeley
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Pub Date 28 Feb 2023 | Archive Date 25 Apr 2023
"Enchanting. Molly Greeley has pulled off a piece of magic to tell a dazzling love story about the outcast's ache to be cared for and belong. This book broke my heart and put it back together again."--Allison Epstein, author of A Tip for the Hangman
A mesmerizing novel set in the French royal court of Catherine de’ Medici during the Renaissance, which recreates the touching and surprising true story behind the Beauty and the Beast legend, from the acclaimed author of The Clergyman’s Wife and The Heiress.
1547: Pedro Gonzales, a young boy living on the island of Tenerife, understands that he is different from the other children in his village. He is mercilessly ridiculed for the hair covering his body from head to toe. When he is kidnapped off the beach near his home, he finds himself delivered by a slave broker into the dangerous and glamorous world of France’s royal court. There “Monsieur Sauvage,” as he is known, learns French, literature, and sword fighting, becoming an attendant to the French King Henri II and a particular favorite of his queen, the formidable Catherine de’ Medici. Queen Catherine considers herself a collector of unusual people and is fascinated by Pedro…and determined to find him a bride.
Catherine Raffelin is a beautiful seventeen-year-old girl whose merchant father has fallen on hard times and offers up his daughter to Queen Catherine. The queen will pay his debts, and his daughter will marry Monsieur Sauvage.
Catherine meets Pedro for the first time on their wedding day. Barely recovered from the shock of her father’s betrayal, she soon finds herself christened “Madame Sauvage” by the royal courtiers, and must learn to navigate this strange new world, and the unusual man who is now her husband.
Gorgeously written, heartbreaking and hopeful, Marvelous is the portrait of a marriage, the story of a remarkable, resilient family, and an unforgettable reimaging of one of the world’s most beloved fairy tales.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 135 members
This lovely, bittersweet love story about an unusual arranged marriage in the sixteenth-century court of Catherine de' Medici. The story is true, attested to in historical sources from the time-- what is not known for sure is whether this true story served as the basis for the Beauty and the Beast legend. Molly Greeley draws out all the similarities in the two narratives, lending her novel a beautiful dreamlike quality; at the same time she does not shy away from depicting the sometimes harsh realities behind the fairy tale. An imaginative work of historical imagination and empathy.
With evocative writing and a sensitive approach, Molly Greeley tells the story of Pedro Gonzalez, a man born with hypertrichosis. Marvelous is both a love story and an exploration of living with physical difference in the 16th century. I enjoyed this tremendously! My interview with the author be published by the Historical Novel Society near publication date. Anyone who loves Beauty and the Beast should not miss this one.
Once in a while, a novel comes along that is both different and special. “Marvelous” is such a book. Retellings of fairy tales are not unusual, and some of them are quite good. But here Molly Greeley explores the real-life story that gave rise to one of the best-loved tales, “Beauty and the Beast.” In doing so, she raises issues of inclusion, trust, acceptance, the effects of trauma, and basic humanity—all in a gentle, non-preachy way.
Pedro Gonzales, later known as Petrus Gonsalvus or Pierre Sauvage (Pierre the Savage, which itself says a great deal about other people’s views of him), was born on Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, around 1537. We know from early on that he was abandoned by his mother as an infant, presumably because he was born covered in hair—a rare genetic condition that was seen at the time as evidence that a child was the spawn of a devil. His adoptive mother, Isabel, belongs to the indigenous people of Tenerife, the Guanche, whose culture and religion have been all but obliterated by the conquering Spaniards. So she and her son, Manuel, are also, in a sense, outcasts.
When Pedro is around nine, pirates kidnap him, and he winds up at the court of the French King Henri II and Henri’s wife, Catherine de’ Medici. Henri, charmed by Pedro’s combination of strangeness and acumen, takes the child under his wing and gives him a royal education, as well as financial support. But the effects of Pedro’s abandonment, early mistreatment, and capture—heightened by the suspicion and disrespect of his fellow nobles, most of whom see him as little better than a trained monkey—leave him feeling perennially unsure of himself.
When Catherine de’ Medici arranges his marriage to her namesake, the beautiful sixteen-year-old daughter of a merchant who has fallen on hard times, Pedro has no idea how to talk to this girl who is half his age. Her discomfort—how many teenage girls want to marry, sight unseen, a taciturn man in his mid-thirties who looks like a Wookie?—plays into Petrus’s fears, and the newlywed couple struggles to find a connection. But when fate deals Catherine a hand she has both anticipated and feared, she rises to the challenge, and Pedro begins to realize that she is nothing like the mother he lost.
Greeley does a great job in conveying the sensory experience of her two leads and, by alternating Pedro’s view with Catherine’s, charting their individual growth, which in turn creates a credible portrayal of their developing relationship. If you love books focused on family and identity, as well as stories set just a little off the beaten path, this is definitely a novel for you.
I will be interviewing this author for the New Books Network (link below) in March 2023.