My daughter read this book for a high school history project and loved it.
Loved this story of Marie Antoinette. Gives a different insight into what her life might have been like.
I became totally engrossed in this novel...once I started reading I couldn't put it down and read it in one day! I thought the author did a really great job of "maturing" Marie Antoinette through the journal entries which start before she marries Louis and ends when she is taken to the guillotine. According to the author's note, she did quite a bit of research into the queen's life...I have to trust her on this as I admit to not being a Marie Antoinette scholar...so often it's hard to separate fact from fiction in regards to her life. My favorite characters from the book were Axel, Eric, and de la Tour. And I actually found myself like Marie Antoinette, which I kind of found surprising.
This book is written in the format of a diary (hence the title). Marie Antoinette tells us her story as it happens. Now since this IS historical fiction there are characters that are made up (such as Eric, Amelie and Sophie) to make the story run smoothly. I thought that Erickson did a good job at that. The characters she added just enhanced the"true" story.
Marie Antoinette is married to Louis XVI when she is only 14 years old. It was a very well know fact that the marriage was not consummated for nearly seven years. The result of this is that the citizens starting printing pamphlets that were centered on the queen finding sexual relief in others (men and women). To make herself feel better, Marie engrosses herself in fashion, buying the newest dresses, shoes and gloves. Louis is historically noted for being weak and cowardly and in Erickson's book she really shows how Marie Antoinette has to treat him as a child and not a husband.
During this time, France's debt is steadily increasing. Their debt from the Seven Years' War still hadn't been paid and now they were embroiled in Great Britain's war in the North American colonies. Erickson describes the life of the normal citizen and it isn't pretty. There are fights over bread and people living in filth. Yet Marie Antoinette continues to redecorate and buy dresses which further infuriates the people (wouldn't you be upset?)
As we know, Marie Antoinette's marriage is eventually consummated and children are born. She continues her affair with Count Axel von Fersen during the entire marriage which fueled the rumors of illegitimacy of the children. Erickson's character Amelie (the bitter wife of a childhood friend) does bear some similarities to Jeanne of Valois-Saint-Remy who was known to be a big enemy of hers. She was imprisoned and then escaped and published pamphlets about her supposed sexual encounters with Marie Antoinette.
Of course as we know, the French Revolution began. The royal family was imprisoned and both Louis and Marie were executed by the guillotine. During the entire story we read about the many different attempts and plans to rescue the family. The one plan that Louis finally gave into unfortunately didn't work because of his indecisiveness. Since he couldn't decide who would play what character, they were late in departing and were caught within 24 hours. It will always make me wonder what would have happened if Louis would have left France when things started going downhill or if the rescue attempt did work. What if Marie Antoinette left with Count Axel? How different would France be today?
This was a great book. Erickson tells a fantastic story of Marie Antoinette. Even with the added "stuff" that comes with historical fiction, she doesn't overdo it.
I liked this book and read it quickly. I didn't think it was as good as Phillipa Gregory's Tudor series, but a good book nonetheless. I've read others by this author and always find them to be interesting good books.
This was an enjoyable, light historical fiction read. If you are looking for a meaty, comprehensive HF read on Marie Antoinette this will probably disappoint. But if you are being introduced to Marie Antoinette or the French Revolution this should be a perfect fit. This reminded me of Robin Maxwell's The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn.
Erickson's use of the diary format gives you the immediacy of being transported to the French courts. The picking of fabrics for gowns, the elaborate hair designs, the embroidered slippers, all these frivolous but joyful things that help Marie Antoinette cope with the disappointments of her marriage and trying to fit in at this foreign court and its workings. Erickson does paint a sympathetic figure but does not shy away from showing how out of touch she was with the common people, both her lack of understanding and sympathy and her belief from birth that royalty are indeed above the people. Erickson lets us see her growth from a young woman, girl really, to a wife who grows genuinely fond of her husband and a loving mother. Her maturation and acceptance of what is happening is compelling and poignant for the reader.