In all honesty, I'm very critical of biographies, perhaps more so than I should be. The fact is that I'm sick of reading everything in the same style,In all honesty, I'm very critical of biographies, perhaps more so than I should be. The fact is that I'm sick of reading everything in the same style, with the same approach. Unfortunately, there are reasons why the study of history is given a bad rap, and dull biographies is one of them. Luckily, "Queen of Fashion" is not at all dull, and not at all boring. It's a biography with a unique spin--almost more of a thesis, approaching Marie Antoinette's life through the lens of fashion--and the concept works.
Weber's research is spot-on--a mixture of primary sources with modern speculation. She does not spend a laborious amount of time threading the clothing base into Marie Antoinette's life. Of course, as with any focus such as this, the connection can sometimes come off as worn, or perhaps a stretch. When one is looking at a single facet of Marie's life so closely, it's impossible not to imagine or leap into theories. However, Weber avoids this habit as often as possible. It never reached the point of annoyance.
Caroline Weber treats her subject as both a remarkable person and a flawed human being. She dispels the "let them eat cake" rumors, of course, but unlike many biographers refrains from masking Marie as a saint. Weber is fully aware of the French queen's very real problems, even if "let them eat cake" is not one of them.
One complaint I would have is that while the fashion idea certainly didn't pigeon-hole Weber in at all times, there were moments wherein I would have liked to read more about Marie Antoinette's family and personal relationships.
Overall--not as good as Antonia Fraser's "Marie Antoinette: The Journey" but still admirable and quite well done....more
Mineko Iwasaki became known outside of Japan when she was referenced as a source for the bestselling "Memoirs of a Geisha", a fictionalized story whicMineko Iwasaki became known outside of Japan when she was referenced as a source for the bestselling "Memoirs of a Geisha", a fictionalized story which mirrored her life in many ways. The actual life of a geisha, however, was skewed and turned into a sordid tale of prostitution and enslavement. Iwasaki, one of the most successful geisha of the twentieth century, understandably took issue with this portrayal. Here, she tells her own story.
First off, Iwasaki is very candid about her own faults and the flaws in the geisha system--after all, she did end her lucrative career at twenty-nine. I never felt like she was lying or trying to make herself look like a better person than who she is. Admittedly, it's hard for me to fact-check as I do not know the geisha world intimately, but from what I've read, everything stacks up. Her tale is illuminating, honest, and interesting.
The only problem with the story is not its own fault. This is a translation, and while Rande Brown does a good job, I wish that I knew Japanese. Clearly, some of the more confusing details are lost, as is a certain personal edge. Overall, this doesn't dent the book in a big way, and it's a more than worthwhile read....more