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Literature / Goddess

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Goddess is a 2015 novel by Kelly Gardiner, following the life of fencer and opera star Julie d'Aubigny.

Set in the late-17th Century, Julie d'Aubigny lies on her deathbed and gives her final confession to a priest, recounting the sordid details of her remarkable life. The tale begins with her origins as daughter to the secretary of the Comte d'Armagnac, Master of Horse to the King, and follows her through her wild and tumultuous adventures throughout France as a lover, duelist, and a legend of the Paris opera, all before her death at the age of 33.


Goddess contains the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Julie herself, true to history.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: While attending a ball in Paris attended by the King's brother, Julie provokes a fight with three men when she boldly walks up and kisses another woman she found attractive on the floor in front of everyone. The four depart to fight, and Julie defeats them all before returning to the ball to the shock and astonishment of everyone. The King's brother, however, finds the entire adventure hilarious. Officially he chastises her due to laws against dueling in the city, but quietly warns her it would be best to leave Paris until the heat dies down.
  • A God Am I: While less grandiose than is usual for this trope, Julie explicitly refers to herself as a goddess several times.
  • The Alcoholic Monsier d'Aubigny drinks heavily.
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  • All Women Are Lustful: Julie lampshades this trope with her priest, and ridicules him over the church's teachings that women are born in sin. She needles him several times about it in the first chapter alone.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The story is presented as Julie d'Aubigny reciting her story for a priest, so at times it drops into a first person perspective in which she addresses the audience directly. As the story progresses Julie's thoughts during these interludes become increasingly erratic and her train of thought more easily derailed as the disease which is killing her takes its toll.
  • Arranged Marriage: The Comte d'Armagnac arranges one for Julie to a man named Maupin in a vain attempt to keep her out of trouble, and especially out of his hair. Julie actually finds the arrangement quite convenient, as her husband has little enough to do with her that she's relatively free to do as she wishes.
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  • Artistic License – History: Crops up here and there for dramatic effect. For example, the duel between Julie and Louis-Joseph d'Albert in the book is presented as a playful one-on-one affair upon her arrival in Poitiers, which immediately led them to strike up a friendship. In reality, d'Albert provoked the duel making ribald comments while Julie was singing at a tavern, and the fight pit her against him and two of his friends. She defeated all three at once, stabbing d'Albert through the shoulder, and it was only when he wrote her a letter of apology afterwards that she visited him and their friendship and romance began.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Convent burnings and dueling aside, many of Julie's antics would actually be downright tame, or at least indistinguishable from those of many starlets in the 21st Century. In 17th Century France, however, she was an outright scandal whom nobody had the slightest idea what to do with. Julie herself discusses this with the priest, feeling that she was born out of time, wondering if she ought to have been born in Roman times, or a century from now.
  • But I Digress: Julie frequently rattles off on tangents related to incidental details in her story, and has to be reminded by the priest to stay on track. It gets worse as the story progresses and Julie's health deteriorates.
  • Composite Character: The identity of the girl Julie kissed to spark a duel with three men at a part held by the King's brother is unknown to history. The book conflates her with Marie Louise Thérèse, the Marquise de Florensac, with whom Julie later established her last known relationship.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Pretty much the end result of every duel Julie fights.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Probably about every other line of dialogue is Julie making some snide remark, especially about God or religion.
  • Death Seeker: Julie muses at one point to the priest that she may have actually wanted someone to kill her in a duel, a notion with which d'Albert agreed. It was only her pride of not wanting to be beaten, along with skill, that kept her alive.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Julie strikes up a life-long friendship and off-and-on romance with Joseph d'Albert after thoroughly trouncing him in a duel.
  • Direct Line to the Author: Julie is recounting her life to a priest on her deathbed, and the book is presented as if it were his account of her story. At several parts Julie makes a point of reminding him to write her words exactly as she says them.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: The book never states what is killing Julie. Truth in Television, as even today it's unknown what her cause of death was.
  • Downer Ending: The book opens with Julie on her deathbed, so it goes without saying it's not going to be the happiest of endings.
  • Driven to Suicide: While playing Dido during a performance of Aeneas in Brussels, after having been replaced as the mistress of Elector Maximilian Emanuel, Julie is so angered by this that she actually stabs herself near the heart and throat. However she survives, and denies to the priest while recounting the story that she was actually trying to commit suicide. It later sparks a brutal fight involving flying dinner plates, and eventually leads to her leaving Brussels when Emanuel attempts to buy her off.
    • Much later, Julie makes a direct attempt to take her life, cutting her wrists over Clara. She survives, of course, as she's narrating the story, but it still fuels the fires of the society gossip mill.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Discussed and tied in knots. Julie is well-aware that a woman isn't supposed to do the things she does. Many of her escapades alarm the priest taking her confession, a point which she greatly enjoys teasing him over. The only reason she is able to get away with it is pure badassery and Refuge in Audacity.
  • Famed in Story: Particularly noticeable when Julie reaches Brussels: The local opera company is damn near falling over themselves to welcome her when they learn that La Maupin is coming.
  • Flynning: Completely averted. While the details of the fights are generally glossed over, whenever Julie's technique is described her movements are small, fast, and precise. Except for when she decides to screw with her opponents instead.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Julie led a wild, exciting, controversial, tumultuous, and unfortunately, ultimately short life. The book begins with her on her deathbed recounting her life story for a priest, and suffice to say it doesn't end on the most upbeat of notes.
  • Gender Bender: While in the convent with Clara, Julie tells her the story of Iphis and Ianthe. Iphis was a girl who was raised as a boy, and married by her father to Ianthe. After praying to the gods, Iphis was transformed into a man so the couple could be happy together. Julie tells Clara this story to compare their own situation to the pair, though she realizes there's no such easy solution for them.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Julie freely acknowledges to the priest that one of her biggest flaws is that she's quick to anger, with a ferocious temper.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Julie forms a relationship of this sort with d'Albert after their duel. It occasionally straddled the line between strictly platonic and Friends with Benefits, but Julie notes to the priest just how much they care for one another.
  • Historical Domain Character: The book is a fictionalization of the real-life escapades of Julie d'Aubigny.
  • Historical Fiction: The events in the book are a fictionalized account of the real Julie d'Aubigny's life.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Several times throughout her narrations Julie makes this exact lamentation comparing her current bed-ridden, diseased state to the heights she attained in her youth. Made all the more powerful because she is a mere thirty-three.
  • Humiliation Conga: Duménil, whom nobody in the Paris Opera really likes, is subjected to one by a fed-up Julie after she gets tired of his pawing of the various girls, self-importance, and thievery. First she ambushes him in the dark, kicks his ass with a cane (because her sword is too good for him), and robs him. Later he tries to play it up as an assault by six or seven bandits for sympathy from the girls in the company. After Duménil spins up a fantasy of vainly trying to fight them off outnumbered, Julie steps in and reveals that she was his assailant, producing his stolen goods to expose him as a fraud.
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: Julie uses this on a number of occasions to get what she wants from people. It's especially effective on d'Armagnac.
  • Ill Girl: Subverted. Julie was a great beauty and proud of it in her prime, but the framing story finds her looks having been ravaged by whatever illness is killing her. She's weak, barely able to walk, and clearly no longer the striking woman she used to be.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The book doesn't have "chapters," it has "acts" and "scenes." Fitting, as Julie was a renowned star of the Paris Opera.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Julie remarks several times to the priest that, prior to her illness, she was a veritable goddess, and one of France's great beauties.
  • Just Toying with Them: When she was giving fencing exhibitions on the road, Julie notes to the priest her approach generally involved this; playing with opponents unwilling to believe a woman could beat them before setting them up for a thorough thrashing. When she doesn't screw with them and fights in earnest it tends to result in a Single-Stroke Battle.
  • Kill It with Fire: After her adventure in Avignon, involving setting fire to a convent to help a lover escape, Julie is convicted in absentia of kidnapping and arson, and sentenced to be burned at the stake. Amusingly enough, the warrant was for a Monsieur de Maupin, however Julie's hopes of using that fact to elude capture because the search is for a man are dashed once the agent of d'Armagnac who caught up with her warns her the authorities know the truth.
  • The Lad-ette: Julie drinks, fights, curses, and casually sleeps around.
  • Little Miss Badass: Julie's adventures begin at the tender age of 13, and by 16 she's been convicted in absentia of kidnapping and arson, sentenced to death by burning.
  • Living Legend: By the time she reaches Brussels Julie has become this. Everyone knows of her, and rumor and stories spread ahead of her wherever she goes.
  • Locked Away in a Monastery: When the family of a girl Julie becomes enamored of lock her away in a convent to separate them and avoid a scandal, Julie isn't about to let such a minor detail get in her way. So she joins the convent herself just to gain access to the girl. And then she sets it on fire to cover their escape.
  • The Lost Lenore:
    • Julie has two candidates:
      • Clara, the merchant's daughter whose parents sent her to a convent (though that wasn't enough to stop Julie) was the first. Although she didn't die, a constant throughout the story is Julie's lament over abandoning her in Aix, and she remarks to the priest at times how much she wishes she never left, or rescued her again to be with her.
      • The other is Marie Louise Thérèse, the Marquise de Florensac. She was the last known of Julie's lovers, and they established a close relationship. Marie died of a fever not long after giving birth to a daughter by her husband, and Julie was left heartbroken and inconsolable, leading her to retire to the convent where she later died.
    • At one point she even wonders if she is this for d'Albert.
  • Louis XIV: The book is set during his reign, and the King plays small roles throughout her life: Her father was the secretary to the Comte d'Armagnac, the King's Master of Horse, and Louis himself issued the pardon that cleared her of the arson and kidnapping charges which kept her from joining the Paris Opera.
  • Love Triangle: One sparks of a sort between Julie, d'Albert, and Thévenard. D'Albert and Thévenard both love Julie. Julie herself cares for both, with d'Albert in particularly becoming one of her closest, and lifelong, friends, but she casually dismisses the idea of a relationship with either.
  • Master Swordsman: Several. Julie describes her father as one, and there's also her lover and fencing master, Sérrane. However all of them pale in comparison to Julie.
  • Missing Mom: The identity of Julie's mother is unknown to her. She doesn't know whether she's even still alive and just ran out on her and her father, or if she died in childbirth.
  • The Musketeer: Monsieur d'Aubigny was one of the King's musketeers in his youth, before become secretary in charge of training pages under d'Armagnac.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Julie humiliates Duménil on behalf of the girls of the Opera company he has robbed or harassed, particularly Fanchon, whom he intended to rape. However when he flees in shame, they all turn on Julie instead, and Fanchon resolves to comfort him anyway.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Sérrane is an incredibly talented swordsman himself. Unfortunately, Julie is even better, and his clear frustration with this is one reason she leaves him in Marseille.
    • The same thing happens once Julie joins the Paris Opera, when she upstages the legendary Le Rochois while making her debut performance.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Julie uses this to excuse returning Clara to her parents when an agent of Comte d'Armagnac catches up to them in Aix. She admits to the priest that it was really done to save her own skin.
  • Pride: Julie makes no attempt to hide just how proud she is; of her beauty, of her voice, and her skill with the sword. Even as she lies dying from illness and telling her life's story to a priest, she is utterly unrepentant of her prideful nature.
  • Quick Draw: Demonstrated in a pistol duel. Julie isn't just a Master Swordsman, but a crack shot with a pistol with a lightning draw. She raises and fires a pistol so fast in one scene that her opponent didn't have time to not only twitch to raise his pistol, but he didn't even process the signal to fire had been given!
  • Really Gets Around: Julie leaves a trail of broken hearts and abandoned lovers across France.
  • The Red Baron: La Maupin, once she hits it big with the Paris Opera
  • Refuge in Audacity: Goddess is pretty much "Refuge In Audacity: The Book," as Julie recounts her wild adventures for the priest taking her deathbed confession. Which is fitting because that's pretty much how d'Aubigny lived her life: At least a part of how she got away with as much as she did is because of just how over-the-top she was, and no one having the slightest clue what to think about or do with her.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Louis-Joseph d'Albert de Luynes vs Gabriel-Vincent Thévenard. Both love Julie, the former is nobility, the latter a an opera singer. It's actually Thévenard who is presented as the manly man of the pair; tall, massive, and strong, while Julie describes d'Albert as a romantic.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: Almost all of Julie's duels end with a single thrust. Unless she toys with them first.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Julie outright tells the priest this about herself, and how her antics have been exaggerated and elevated to myth and legend as rumors spread, circulate, and grow in the telling.
  • The Sociopath: Julie demonstrates little real consideration for others and is absorbed mostly in her own needs and desires, and casually dumps companions and lovers the moment they become inconvenient or annoying.
  • Title Drop: Julie refers to herself as a goddess several times throughout her narration.
  • Truth in Television: The antics Julie relates to the priest actually did happen, even allowing for some Artistic License.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Julie is this on several occasions, telling the priest one thing, and then the actual events revealing quite the opposite.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Almost all of the characters in the story are historical, as are many of Julie's antics. However the details have been fictionalized (for example, by historical accounts Julie didn't return Clara to her parents to save her own skin, but simply because she got bored with her) and many blanks filled in.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: The entire reason Julie is telling the story in the first place: She's dying, she knows it, and wants her adventures recorded for posterity.

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