Married Maurice Lever (an author).
Historian. Researcher for CNRS, France.
Louis XVI, Fayard (Paris, France), 1985.
Louis XVIII, Fayard (Paris, France), 1988.
Philippe Egalité, Fayard (Paris, France), 1996.
Madame de Pompadour, Perrin (Paris, France), 2000, translation by Temerson published as Madame de Pompadour: A Life, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2002.
Marie-Antoinette: journal d'une reine, Laffont (Paris, France), 2002.
C'était Marie-Antoinette, Fayard (Paris, France), 2006.
"Since the mid-1980s Evelyne Lever has made herself the unrivalled chronicler in France of the last generation of the Bourbon dynasty," according to William Doyle in the English Historical Review. Lever has written biographies on such figures in the French court as Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, Marie Antoinette, and Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson (Madame de Pompadour). In Madame de Pompadour: A Life, Lever writes about the controversial woman who was the lover of King Louis XV and whose machinations—taking advantage of the personal weaknesses of the king, who suffered from depression—essentially made her the ruler of France from 1745 to 1764. Unpopular with the court, because of her bourgeois background and the fact that she was a married woman who became the king's lover, and with the people, who blamed her for military losses against Prussia and England and resented her self-indulgent lifestyle, Madame de Pompadour still managed to wield great power. Booklist contributor Brad Hooper praised Lever's work as "an artfully written biography." While reporting that the author's "prose is occasionally overwrought," a Publishers Weekly critic allowed that "some purple prose may be forgiven in an otherwise beguiling biography." Mary Salony, writing for the Library Journal, concluded: "Lever … delivers a well-researched biographical account that gives a picture of Louis XV as well as of Madame de Pompadour in an easy-to-read manner."
Lever is the author of several works about the infamous Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France during the reign of King Louis XVI. During the French Revolution, both rulers were executed by guillotine. Many inaccurate depictions exist of the daughter of Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria. Marie Antoinette, for example, never actually said, "Let them eat cake," a rude response to the starving people of France who had no bread to eat. While admitting that the queen led a lavish life, Lever offers a more sympathetic portrait in her biography. An ineffective actor in French politics who alienated the common people, Marie Antoinette is still seen by the author as a victim of her times. A Publishers Weekly writer, though, disagreed with the way Lever "repeatedly ascribes acts of revolutionary violence to ‘madness’ perpetrated by ‘madmen,’" and concluded that "the book is evocative, but romance, rather than historical analysis, takes precedence here." On the other hand, Library Journal contributor Jim Doyle asserted that Marie Antoinette is an "absorbing work of meticulous scholarship and easily supplants any recent biographies of the tragic queen." Victoria critic Michele Slung concluded that "Lever makes this always tragic story once again thrilling in the retelling." Lever has also published related works on the queen, such as Marie-Antoinette: journal d'une reine and her 2006 title, C'était Marie-Antoinette.
Lever is also the author of Philippe Egalité, a biography of the vain and ineffectual Duke of Orleans whose only significant role in history came when he denounced Louis XVI publicly at the French Parliament in 1787. Historians credit this act with helping to spark the French Revolution. Other than this moment of defiance, however, the duke's life was marked by the selfish pursuit of his own pleasures and, after the revolution, he served merely as a political pawn in France. "Written with the cooperation and encouragement of his descendant, the Comte de Paris," reported Doyle, "this is … nevertheless a work of pious rehabilitation." Doyle appreciated how Lever allows readers to draw their own conclusions based on the facts she presents.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October, 1998, Robert D. Harris, review of Philippe Egalité, p. 1258.
Biography, spring, 2003, Judith Thurman and Emily Eakin, review of Madame de Pompadour: A Life, p. 379; winter, 2006, Chantal Thomas, review of Marie Antoinette, Queen, Consort of Louis XVI, King of France, 1755-1793, p. 234; summer, 2006, Philippe-Jean Catinchi and Jerome Gautheret, review of C'était Marie-Antoinette, p. 531.
Booklist, June 1, 2000, Brad Hooper, review of Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France, p. 1844; August, 2002, Brad Hooper, review of Madame de Pompadour, p. 1916.
Choice, March, 2001, T.M. Keefe, review of Marie Antoinette, p. 1337.
English Historical Review, June, 1998, William Doyle, review of Philippe Egalité, p. 757.
Entertainment Weekly, August 4, 2000, Megan Harlan, review of Marie Antoinette, p. 80.
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, November-December, 2001, Lucile Desligneres, review of Marie Antoinette, p. 35.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of Madame de Pompadour, p. 1098.
Library Journal, June 1, 2000, Jim Doyle, review of Marie Antoinette, p. 144; September 1, 2002, Mary Salony, review of Madame de Pompadour, p. 186.
New Yorker, August 7, 2000, Francine du Plessix Gray, review of Marie-Antoinette, p. 81; October 7, 2002, review of Madame de Pompadour, p. 94.
New York Review of Books, February 8, 2001, Philip Nicholas Furbank, review of Marie Antoinette, pp. 4-7.
Publishers Weekly, June 26, 2000, review of Marie Antoinette, p. 62; July 22, 2002, review of Madame de Pompadour, p. 164.
Times Literary Supplement, February 28, 1997, Gwynne Lewis, review of Philippe Egalité, p. 30.
Victoria, August, 2001, Michele Slung, review of Marie Antoinette, p. 31.
Vogue, September, 2002, Lisa Levy, "An Affair to Remember: Two New Biographies Shed Light on Louis XVI's Most Celebrated Mistress," review of Madame de Pompadour, p. 556.
Austin Chronicle Online,http://www.austinchronicle.com/ (July 14, 2000), Stephen Macmillan Moser, review of Marie Antoinette.
Complete Review,http://www.complete-review.com/ (September 16, 2004), review of Marie Antoinette.
Jacksonville.com,http://www.jacksonville.com/ (September 10, 2000), Jules Wagman, review of Marie Antoinette.
Royalty,http://www.royalty.nu/ (September 16, 2004), review of Marie Antoinette.