Today’s review is an unfortunately rare example of historical fiction that specifically focuses on the early years of a most famous figure. Concentrating on Marie Antoinette’s adolescence, Juliet Grey strives to disperse the misconceptions that are associated with her. Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first in a projected trilogy. The second, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow, is expected in 2012.
Speaking of misconceptions, the author wrote this fun bit for the Huffington Post, Busting Marie Antoinette Myths: 7 Things She Never Did.
If your readers enjoyed Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution, recommended back in March, this paperback original is a real find.
GREY, Juliet. Becoming Marie Antoinette: A Novel. 480p. Ballantine. Aug. 2011. pap. $15. ISBN 978-0-345-52386-0. LC number unavailable.
Adult/High School–For anyone who has ever looked at a royal family and wanted to be a part of it, or who thought just how wonderful and romantic it would be to be a princess, this book is a wakeup call. Becoming Marie Antoinette tells Marie’s story from the moment she realizes, at age 10, that her mother, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, has only one thing in mind: getting her married to the dauphin of France, Louis-Auguste. In order to make this happen, Marie must undergo a complex “makeover,” including makeup, hair, teeth (she wore braces–18th-century braces!), and wardrobe in order to become acceptable to the French. The transformation works, and she is sent to France to be wed. Once there, Marie must navigate the spider web of intrigue and politics that makes up the French court. She can trust no one. Hoping to rely on the one person she thinks will be genuine, she sets out to develop a relationship with her husband, an equally young, trusting, and troubled teenager overwhelmed with the expectations placed upon him. This is a charming and eye-opening book about a young girl with the weight of her country on her shoulders traveling alone into the complexity of the adult political world. The incredible excesses of the French court described here set the stage for the revolution that is forthcoming. But first, readers get to know Marie for the very real human that she was. The author’s note and bibliography point to the historical background. Readers will anxiously await the rest of the trilogy.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA