The Maiden of Tonnerre: The Vicissitudes of the Chevalier and the Chevalière d’Eon

by Professor Charles d’Eon de Beaumont (Author), Professor Roland A. Champagne (Translator), Professor Nina Claire Ekstein (Translator), Professor Gary Kates (Translator)

This is a translation from French to English of some limited writings of Chevalière d’Eon. The authors come from the perspective that much of the persona that d’Eon presented after her transition to her feminine form at 49 years old was a fiction.

While reading the words of d’Eon is interesting in that we can hear her words about what happened, these writings are not written in a way that connects to many modern readers. If you have an interest in d’Eon as a historian, and don’t read French, then this is an important book to add to your collection. If you are more interested in a good story… I’ll be honest. The notes, and introduction written by the modern translators and editors are more interesting than the writings of d’Eon were.

D’Eon is writing for an audience far removed from this modern audience. Her story bounces around, and to get the full understanding of a particular event, you have to read portions of multiple different chapters. Maybe this is just me. I’m a story teller, and I want my history to be more story than anything. That is after all what history means. It is a story, that happens to be factual. D’Eon’s writings are more of a set of facts put together in related groups.

Did I enjoy this book though? Yes I did. I got to learn a lot about a historical figure that I would not have learned another way. I got to clarify some stories I had heard told multiple ways. I just don’t think the book is for everyone.

If you are triggered by misuse of pronouns, then don’t read this book. The authors use “he” throughout the book, even while telling us that d’Eon flip flopped between gender markers (French has more gender markers than just pronouns) in her writing and lived the end of her life as a woman. If they had used both pronouns, I could have gotten behind that, but it seems they were stuck on the “but he was born a man” belief.