Juliet Grey is back with the second in her trilogy based on the life of Marie Antoinette. Becoming Marie Antoinette began Marie Antoinette’s story at age 10. Days of Splendor picks up when she begins her reign, and covers the next 15 years of her life, ending in 1789, after the storming of the Bastille. The first 300 pages are available on Scribd.
For teens interested in this period, you might also recommend Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution. And Moran has a new novel coming from Crown next month, The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court, about Napoleon’s second wife, the Austrian princess Marie-Louise.
Adult/High School–The bitterly cold weather in France has caused the river to freeze, stopping the shipment of grain. Without it, there is no bread and thousands of people are starving. The downfall of the French market causes unemployment to rise. Naïve and unable to grasp the reality of their populace, Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI consistently make poor decisions in response to the grave problems facing their nation, giving the people cause to chant for liberty and equality. Marie’s story, begun in Becoming Marie Antoinette (Ballantine, 2011), continues here as she and her new husband ascend to the thrown in 1774, after the death of King Louis XV. As Queen, Marie’s job is to provide an heir, but Louis suffers from a medical condition that makes intercourse painful. Gossip and the extreme dictates of the French Court surround Marie until she feels compelled to always stay one step ahead regardless of the cost. She is kind and good hearted, with an overwhelming need and desire to please others, but her inability to see beyond her own pampered, regulated world sets the stage for her demise. Each action she takes in good faith is observed to be thoughtless, self-serving, and reckless. This book stands on its own, but teens may want to read Marie’s story from the beginning. Readers will shake their heads in disbelief at the excesses of the French Court even as they sympathize with the young royal. They will also fear for her, knowing that the fall of the Bastille spells the imminent collapse of all she has known.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA