Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Marie Antoinette - Antonia Fraser

Marie Antoinette
Title: Marie Antoinette: The Journey
Author: Antonia Fraser
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 512
Genre: Biography / Historical / Royals / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Some list of royal biographies
Date Completed: 3/17/17

Summary: An exhaustive, and at times surprising, biography of France's most infamous and intriguing queen.

What I Thought: If you know me in real life or on the Internet, you know that I love the royals. Royalty throughout the ages fascinates me. Both fictional and historical ruling houses intrigue me and I spend a lot of my reading time exploring their worlds. 

Anyone interested in royalty does not get far without exposure to and developing an opinion of Marie Antoinette. One of my early experiences with her story was from The Royal Diaries series. They were historical fiction written from the perspective of famous princesses. Marie Antoinette's captured her early life in Austria and her journey to France to become la dauphine. It stopped upon her and Louis's ascension to the French throne. It was a good introduction to her story, and one which certainly sympathized with her greatly. I still have that book on a shelf downstairs. Maybe I should pull it out again...

From there, I gained a broader perspective on Marie Antoinette's life from history class and an incredible visit to Versailles on a school trip (my gosh, is that place amazing. I definitely want to go back). I saw the film adaptation of this very book when it came out. Sophia Coppola did a lovely job, but, now having read the book, I don't think it reflected the source material too well. Our cultural idea and image of this queen is so flighty and frivolous. We have adopted the propagandized version of her. The "let them eat cake" version - which, by the way, she likely never said.

Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette really goes a long way in dispelling those myths. Certainly, the woman had some major faults, many of which were the result of her environment rather than personal failings. The woman Fraser presents is a devoted mother, a serious mind, and a political influence in ways I had never known. I found this book completely fascinating and it definitely altered my perception of Marie Antoinette.

It also made me want to complain at my grocery store since they have "Let them eat cake." written above the bakery and attributed to Marie Antoinette. I haven't, but I want to. 

This is definitely a book I recommend. This woman was much more complex than we realize. She also went through some truly harrowing experiences, particularly leading up to her famous death. I hope we will continue to gain a better understanding of who she was as a person rather than just a character. 

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Perhaps

A Reduced Review: A thoughtful, educational, interesting look at one of the most famous women in history; Fraser may well change your opinion of the French queen.

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