Friday, September 09, 2011

Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey

Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Marie Antoinette #1
Copyright: August 2011
Pages: 453
Book Source: Random House Publishing Group & NetGalley

Synopsis: This enthralling confection of a novel, the first in a new trilogy, follows the transformation of a coddled Austrian archduchess into the reckless, powerful, beautiful queen Marie Antoinette.

Why must it be me? I wondered. When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny?

Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.

Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must change everything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen.

I've had an ongoing fascination with the much maligned Marie Antoinette but have read very little of her life prior to becoming Dauphine of France at the age of 14. Juliet Grey's novel aussages my knowledge deficit with exquisite attention to detail, chronicling the young Austrian archduchess's childhood, her betrothal to Louise Auguste, the Dauphin of France and the personal transformation required to deem her worthy of the position.

“And don’t think for a moment that she would hesitate to relieve you of your duties if you do not transform me from an Austrian caterpillar into a French butterfly.”

Learning about the formidible force of Marie Theresa, Empress of Austria and Marie Antonia's mother; was fascinating. Via well oiled machinations she secures her daughter's marriage and the alliance between France and Austria.

I enjoyed Grey's writing, the vivid and colourful descriptions of clothing, cuisine, decor, french etiquette, the Versailles glide, the coiffures, the myriad of differences between the Hapsburg and the French court; I loved it all. However I found some of Marie Antonia's vocabulary a little disconcerting - it seemed out of character for her age and relative lack of education. Now I like expanding my vocab as much as the next person and I consider myself to have a reasonable grasp on the English language but I had no idea of the meaning of pulchritudinous, imprecations, encomiums or transmogrifying, to name just a few.

So FYI - because I did my homework :)

Pulchritudinous – physically beautiful
Imprecations – oaths, expletives
Encomiums - text expressing high praise
Transmogrifying – changing appearance or form grotesquely

Grey writes of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's marriage with sensitivity and I garnered a new level of sympathy for the pair. The development of their relationship or lack there of in a particular area is at once, awkard, sweet and frustrating for Marie Antoinette as well as the reader but as I turned the last page, I really didn't want it to end.

I'm so looking forward to the 2nd installment, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow due to be released in 2012 and the final novel in the trilogy in 2013.


  1. Great review - I really want to read this one.

  2. Looking forward to reading this one soon. I love books about Marie Antoinette. The vocab definitely doesn't seem in keeping with her age though and upbringing.

  3. So it does not deal with he death, well then I could read it

  4. I really want to read this book. It sounds really good. Last year I saw a documentary about Marie Antoinette and I was blown away by it. Really want to know more about Marie Antoinette. Great review.

  5. I too had the same issues with the vocabulary. I had no idea what the heck pulchritudinous meant - and was straight up frustrated with the words presence, haha. Great review!

  6. Blodeuedd - that's right, book one only covers Marie Antoinette's life from age 10 to approx age 18.

  7. Thanks for the definitions..I need to read those several times for when I read this one! I have a copy waiting for me on my Kindle!!

  8. She did present them as sympathetic characters, and I ended up liking Marie right away. Glad to see you enjoyed it, too.

  9. I have this book, but haven't started reading yet. I'm looking forward to it - good to know I should have a dictionary nearby! Great review!


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