Saturday, April 21, 2007

La Dame d'Esprit: A Biography of the Marquis Du Chatelet by Judith Zinsser


I am trying another review format. This is a book that many libraries missed.

Zinsser, Judith. La Dame d'Esprit: A Biography of the Marquis Du Chatelet. Viking, 2006. 376 pp. Bibliography; Index; Notes in back; Photos. ISBN 0670038008

What would you do if you were bored with your marriage? Gabrielle Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil, the marquise Du Chatelet, wrote treatises on mathematics and physics, translated Newton's work into French, and started an affair with the great author Voltaire. The author reassesses the short but exciting life of an unconventional woman who has been ridiculed by historians.

Subjects: Du Chatelet, Gabrielle Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil; France; French Enlightenment; Genius; Mathematicians; Physicists; Women Scientists

Story Elements: Controversy; Reassessment of life; Romance; Whole life

Tone: Admiring; Sympathetic

Style: Scholarly; Narrative

Now Try: Naked in the Marketplace: The Lives of George Sand by Benita Eisler, a story of a French woman who competed with men in literature instead of science. She was also infamous for her love affairs. For more on the Du Chatelet-Voltaire relationship, try a book with a really long title, Passionate Minds: the Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment, Featuring the Scientist Emilie Du Ch√Ętelet, the Poet Voltaire, Sword Fights, Book Burnings, Assorted Kings, Seditious Verse, and the Birth of the Modern World by David Bodanis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic and book, microscopically but repeatedly annoying for anyone familiar with French usage. Madame la Marquise du Chatelet (with capital M in Marquise and small-case d in du, not Du, "du" means "of" and is not properly a name; on the other hand, "la marquise..." would not be capitalized) was only called that after she was married. It is annoying to read about her as a child and before her marriage, as "Du Chatelet". (Why not call her Emilie for example when a child - or ascertain what she was called and call her that?) It is also annoying to read about her mother as "Froullay" during those times (this sounds intentionally disrespectful). In general, I would have expected the author of such a book to be more careful about respecting correct usage in the place and time she writes about. These characters are not sports personalities written about by jocks, yet the style of writing is too similar to that.