Seventeen-year-old William Sylvanus Baxter falls in love with Miss Pratt, who is visiting some relations in his neighbourhood. His efforts to impress her lead him into hilarious circumstances; at one point he steals his father's evening clothes so that he can wear them when visiting her. The situation is complicated by what he regards as the uncooperative attitude of his family members, who at times seem to conspire deliberately to embarrass him in front of his sweetheart. Highly recomended.
Beauty, charm, acerbic wit and through worldliness-- Athenais de Montespan seems more like a character in fiction than a real-life personage in history. Contemporary records show that she was suspected of resorting to witchcraft to acquire the affections of the monarch Louis XIV. Her memoirs are interesting as they give glimpses not only of life at the French court but more importantly, of what the Marquise thought of herself in relation to those around her.
Did not like the book much although it was quite well written. There are so many French words and phrases that it almost qualifies to be a bilingual novel. There are definite traces of Balzac in the story; Ouida was quite ambitious and reading her Wikipedia entry makes one think that she actually mirrored her own life on the "puissant" great ladies of Balzac's novels.
Seems to be a different version of Far From the Madding Crowd, without the happy ending. The characters appear to be the same, clothed in slightly differing personalities. However, still a very readable book. Hardy is one of the greatest English writers, and none of his fiction is mediocre or fluctuates in quality, unlike many other writers of less repute.