Queen of Exiles

Morrow. Jul. 2023. 448p. ISBN 9780063270992. $32. F
Riley’s latest fictionalization of Black women historical figures (following Sister Mother Warrior) tells the story of the Queen Marie-Louise of Haiti and her husband Henry. In this time-hopping narrative, Marie-Louise tells of the short-lived kingdom established by Henry in Haiti to rival those in Europe. Marie-Louise is not comfortable with the opulence of their new life and wants to do the best for her people. When the Haitians do rise up and depose the monarchy 10 years later, tragic consequences result in the death of the king, while Marie-Louise flees with her remaining children to England. The book’s second act covers Marie-Louise doing whatever she can to support her children in their European exile while maintaining a sense of pride in their heritage. She negotiates with heads of state to get what she needs to survive and she does it well, despite grief over losing her husband and home. The book doesn’t shy away from the racism of the era, which depicted in authentic newspaper clippings from the period.
VERDICT Recommended for all public libraries, Riley’s inventive and vivid depiction of a vital piece of Haitian history is well researched and absorbing. Queen Marie-Louise will enchant readers.
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