Book Reviews, Bookish Posts

Book Review – Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund

Abundance

 

In my opinion, Abundance is the definitive historical fiction novel on Marie Antoinette. I think she captures her perfectly as she is the one telling her own story. In this novel, she is portrayed as entirely human throughout the whole thing. I particularly enjoyed the fact Naslund framed the novel into 5 acts like a Shakespearean play, and I think it works. The rise and fall of Marie Antoinette and the rest of the nobility does read like a Shakespearean tragedy. Though there were times Naslund’s prose delved a bit into being really fluffy, I still enjoyed it.

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Marie and her husband, Louis XVI. A lot of authors seem to go the way of having Marie Antoinette hop into bed with Axel von Fersen like two seconds after they met. But I don’t necessarily believe that was the case. Instead, Naslund builds an awkward love story between Marie and Louis and it’s just the cutest. Yes, their relationship starts off rocky as we all know by not consummating their marriage for seven years but they grow to truly love each other. And yes, I do believe they loved each other. After all, Marie Antoinette stayed with him to the very end even though there were numerous times when she could have gotten the hell out of dodge.

The descriptions of Versailles (the palace and court life itself) brought me to a completely different time and place. While reading, I also did the virtual tour of the real palace and it enhanced the reading experience.

I did not want to get to the end of the novel for obvious reasons. I truly sympathized with her plight. She honestly tried to do the right thing for the people but they just hated her… mostly for things she had no control over.  A lot of the things she was accused of literally every other noble did the same thing many times over. And don’t even get me started on The Diamond Necklace Affair. Ugh.

I truly loved this book and it might actually crack my all-time favorites list.

Rating: 5/5

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Book Reviews

Book Review – Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey {Spoilers!}

This is the second book in Juliet Grey’s Marie Antoinette trilogy. I sincerely loved the first book in this series, so I’m completely disappointed to say I did not particularly this one.  Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow begins immediately after King Louis XV’s death and the ascension of Queen Marie Antoinette and her husband King Louis XVI. I tried to stick it out with this one since April 30 and I ended up DNFing it about 70% in.

What I Liked:

The coverage of the American Revolution through the eyes of the court of Versailles.

I was genuinely happy when Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI finally consummated their marriage (after 7 years) and had their children. However, if Louis XVI hadn’t been a coward, he would’ve gotten that surgery years before. But no….ugh….

What I Didn’t Like:

I feel like Juliet Grey did the complete opposite of everything she did that made me love Becoming Marie Antoinette. I didn’t like the sudden changes from Marie Antoinette’s first-person POV to third-person omniscient within the same chapter. Even sometimes on the same page. It was very jarring and took me out of the narrative. I would think it’s Marie narrating, realize it’s not, and then have to go back and reread everything I just read! I thought it was REALLY annoying because those sections focused on characters I didn’t particularly care for.

Also, Grey did that thing where Marie went from a relatable human being to a harpy who only cared about nice clothes, gambling, and doing everything but being a queen. I quickly found her annoying. When people complain about her, she’s truly confused as to why no one likes her. It’s because you’re out here gambling away 500,000 livres and your people out here starving, honey boo boo.

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{Spoiler!!!}

Marie Antoinette cheating on her husband was frustrating for me, and I spent the chapter yelling at her for it. HOWEVER, if Louis XVI was really as neglectful as the book portrays him to be, then I can almost understand her. I absolutely do not condone cheating, but it’s as if Louis purposefully pushes her into the arms of Axel just so he can get her to leave him alone. He barely appears throughout the entire novel. If I was married to him, I’d probably gamble all of my money and party all of the time too. They declared that they loved each other in the novel, but it felt like they were just saying it to say it.

I don’t understand why authors don’t spend time creating a sweet love story between them. Just because they didn’t fall into bed with each other every two seconds doesn’t mean they might not have loved each other. I would much rather read a sweet awkward love story between the two than this.

Final Verdict:

Since I ended up DNFing this book, it does not get a good grade from me. Will I read the last book in the trilogy? Probaby, because I’m a masochist.

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But also because I feel bad because for some odd reason, she’s one of my favorite historical figures.

Rating: D-

 

 

 

Book Reviews

Book Review – Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey, or Why I Couldn’t Be a French Princess

Becoming Marie Antoinette is an intriguing novel that follows the early life of doomed queen Marie Antoinette from her early years as a child in Austria under her formidable mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, to her ascension as queen of France. I’m actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this book, even though I did put it down at one point.

What I Liked:

Juliet Grey managed to humanize Marie Antoinette. In so many other novels I’ve read, Marie is either portrayed as a saint or as the devil incarnate. There’s not usually a happy medium. However, in this book, while Marie is shown with both good and flawed character traits, like any character should. This portrayal really makes her feel relatable. I mean, it couldn’t have been easy leaving the only home you’ve ever known to marry a boy you’ve never met at the age of fourteen. When I was fourteen, I was still under the impression that I had to put my arms and legs inside my blankets so nothing would “get” me. In other words, if I was her, I’d be pretty inept. Now, I’m not exactly saying that she was inept when she got to France, but she could’ve benefited from one more year at home with her mother. She never understood how precarious her position as the dauphine and thus the queen of France was. Hell, she couldn’t even take part in politics because it wasn’t something the queen consort of France should worry her pretty little head about. Ugh. No wonder all she cared about was having fun and gambling. That’s probably all I would have cared about, too.

The author also managed to bring Versailles to life, especially the ridiculous rules regarding the etiquette of the royal court. I would have HATED living in the French court back then…I mean, French revolution aside, but if I couldn’t get dressed without my underwear being passed around from noblewoman to princess to Princess of the Blood, I would have cursed out everyone within hearing distance and then be sent back to whatever country I came from.

What I Thought Was Meh:

Louis Auguste. Poor, awkward Louis Auguste. I kind of felt sorry for our dear dauphin. He’s just sooooo awkward. However, he annoyed the hell out of me, because Marie would be trying to tell him how she felt and he’d just repeat something one of his tutors told him. Like, damn it, Louis, you’re going to be the king of France. Grow a backbone! Also, there’s all this build up about why they didn’t consummate their marriage, but it’s left by the wayside and will get picked back up in the second book. If you studied history, you know why it took so long, but it didn’t need to be treated like it was some big secret. I did love his character when he and Marie would have their tender moments though. Hopefully, there’ll be more of those in the sequel.

The conflict between Marie and the king’s mistress, Madame du Barry, was equally awkward, and it didn’t need to happen. I know it does happen in history, and Marie uttered her utterly insipid line about how there’s people at Versailles, but the way it’s portrayed in this novel made me want to bang my head on the wall. A good five chapters was spent with Marie going “Should I talk to her?” and then “No, she’s a whore” over and over again. And it was especially annoying that the only reason she started this whole conflict was because Marie got advice from people she should’ve ran away screaming from. At least it was entertaining.

What I Didn’t Like:

The pacing!!!!!!! I ended up putting the novel down toward the beginning of the novel, because the chapters where she’s training to be the dauphine were just soooooooo boring. I can only read so much about the Versailles glide and her hideous medieval braces for so long. Don’t get me wrong, I did find all of this interesting, but not interesting enough. I did soldier through though and the pacing did pick up once she (FINALLY!) arrived at Versailles.

Final Verdict:

All in all, I liked Becoming Marie Antoinette. Even though the pacing was really slow, I did love Marie’s character and she had me laughing out loud during some scenes. It’s really like listening to Marie Antoinette tell her story. I do plan to start the next book soon!

Rating: B+