This heroic biography by the novelist and author of The Favorite (1962) constitutes a most plausible reconstruction of the peak moments in the frenetic career of Marie Mancini, niece of the powerful Cardinal Mazarin, and ardent Platonic love of the young Louis XIV. An ugly duckling, defiantly absorbed in intellectual pursuits, convent-bound, Marie suddenly blossomed into a stunning beauty of charm and wit, a phenomenon apparently accomplished by the attentions of young Louis, himself mesmerized by Marie's singular dedication to what she intuited to be his ideal attributes. Driven, as she was all her life, by the knowledge of her right to an Olympian destiny, she accepted the promises of the monarch, but when it became apparent that other forces were propelling the king, Marie made the ultimate gesture of sacrifice, electrifying the ether with the purity of her protest. Poor Marie was the prisoner of her own ultimates-- an arranged marriage with Laurent of Italy but the perfect devotion of her husband sags into trifling affairs, and Marie cannot accept less than perfection. A succession of admirers, a final demand of Louis who cannot bear her towering purifications, lead eventually to prison and flights in the night, repose and a quiet death.... Marie is less a person than a posture, but she's a lively, noisy, existentialist heroine nonetheless. Densely pretentious but diverting.