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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette: A Novel
The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette: A Novel
by Carolly Erickson
First Copyright Date: 2005
Type of Book: Historical Fiction
ISBN No. 0-312-361450-5

Book Blurb from Paperbackswap:
Imagine that, on the night before she is to die under the blade of the guillotine, Marie Antoinette leaves behind in her prison cell a diary telling the story of her life—from her privileged childhood as Austrian Archduchess to her years as glamorous mistress of Versailles to the heartbreak of imprisonment and humiliation during the French Revolution. 

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.

4 of 5 Stars
**book personally purchased by me**


Darlyn said...

Wow..I never read it but since I love historical fiction, I'll give this one a go.Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

I have been wanting to read this for some time now since most of my historical fiction books have been set in England. Thanks for the awesome review!