Series: Marie Antoinette #2
Publication Date: 15th May 2012
Book Source: Random House & NetGalley
Synopsis: A captivating novel of rich spectacle and royal scandal, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the fateful reign of Marie Antoinette, France’s most legendary and notorious queen.
Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.
From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.
As I mentioned in my review of the 1st book in the trilogy, Becoming Marie Antoinette, I've had an ongoing fascination with the much maligned Marie Antoinette. I think I enjoyed the 1st book slightly more as I wasn't familiar with Maria's early years and her intensive grooming for the role of Dauphine of France.
In Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow I enjoyed the exceptionally detailed look at Marie's life as Queen of France, spanning the period 1774 - 1789; the upside of a trilogy rather than a stand-alone novel. The distress of her unconsummated marriage, Louis XVI's seeming indifference, the long awaited births of her children, her relationships with her ladies in waiting and the infamous "Affair of the Diamond Necklace."
Marie Antoinette fast became a target for rumour, criticism and hatred encompassing everything from sexual depravity, exorbitant spending, frivolous entertainments and the favouring of Austria in political and financial dealings. Whilst she gave the French court and public ample ammunition with her spendthrift ways their perception that she singlehandedly financially ruined the nation was purely scapegoat mentality.
Many of Marie Antoinette's choices were foolish but understandable and detractors often exist without evidence or provocation so maintaining an exemplary reputation would probably not have changed public opinion. When Marie Antoinette's focus changed from gaming & spending to her children it was far too late; her already tarnished reputation was beyond recovery. I found Juliet Grey's portrayal of Marie Antoinette's character a fair one, she was indeed a young woman of many shades, naive, inexperienced, frivolous and foolish, passionate about fashion and design, a loving mother, compassionate, charitable and generous.
Historians disagree on whether Marie Antoinette and Axel von Fersen were actually lovers; there is very little evidence to suggest more than a romantic friendship but opinion is divided. In Day's Of Splendor, Days Of Sorrow Juliet Grey chooses to portray their love affair and the impact on Marie Antoinette spiritually and psychologically and I quite enjoyed this take.
Another meticulously researched installment and the extensive bibliography and author's notes detailing fact from fiction were much appreciated by this reader. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Marie Antoinette and lovers of French History.
Check out my review of the 1st novel Becoming Marie Antoinette