Maia B.'s Reviews > Becoming Marie Antoinette

Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey
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Jul 25, 11

it was ok
bookshelves: historical, beach-reads, boring, too-long
Recommended for: Desperately bored people
Read from July 19 to 25, 2011

So disappointing. SO disappointing! I should have known by the yucky cover that it would be a disappointment.

The book clumsily maps the life of Marie Antoinette from the time she was about ten, when she was an archduchess in the Austrian court, to twenty-one or so and had just become queen. I'm not going back to check. "Toinette," as she is called by her family in Austria (she was actually called Antoine. Juliet Grey, check your sources), is an immature, frustratingly unintelligent girl who ends up an immature, frustratingly helpless older girl. She is practically helpless and does a lot of swallowing her pride, her hurt feelings, her tears, or whatever other tender emotion which Ms. Grey seems to think comprised the life of an eighteenth century woman.

So Marie Antoinette herself (henceforth MA) is a disappointing character. She doesn't develop much; certainly doesn't gain a lot of intelligence, a hearty dose of which she could really use; definitely does not become a mature woman who can help herself out of a bad situation. Juliet Grey hasn't captured her as a person at all. I didn't learn anything from this book that I didn't already know from Antonia Fraser's clever biography, Marie Antoinette: The Journey. I should have satisfied myself with that and saved the trouble of reading this dull book. MA doesn't seem to have a single brain in her head: Since the king (Louis XV) doesn't actually tell her he wants her to speak to his awful mistress, Mme. DuBarry, she assumes he doesn't really care that much - despite the repeated assurances of a man who has the king's ear that Louis does, in fact, care.

Not only this, but she's always crying. Every other sentence is "my eyes wet with tears," "my eyes moist," "tears coursed down my cheeks," "silent tears covered my face," etc. Is the woman a water fountain?

And none of the other characters are very developed or very interesting, either. None of them stand out from the page. None of them is particularly likable except Louis soon-to-be XVI, the dauphin of France. Even he is intensely frustrating: he refuses to consummate his marriage with MA and offers no real reason for it. I find it hard to find a degree of liking for a boy who hurts his wife and then doesn't try to remedy it - while we're told the whole book that he is kind, sensitive, blah blah blah.

The writing was almost as annoying as MA. It's clumsy, unconvincing, and stilted. I skimmed the last fifty pages not only because of overwhelming boredom, but because of the bad writing. Where was the editor? My copy is an ARC, but typos ABOUND. I hope they scrubbed them out before sending the book to the printers.

I got tired of the untranslated French and occasionally German, the totally flat characters, the bad writing, and finally all the crying. In every single scene MA sees fit to start crying at least once. At least she doesn't faint; that would put her on a par with Emily from Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho.

In the end, the book was a waste of money and time. I didn't enjoy it and didn't learn anything from it. The blur of names and characters, all of them boring, finally got to me and so this is an emphatically not-recommended book. In fact, only if you're desperately, desperately bored should you even consider picking up a copy.

Beach Read Qualification: Read it on the beach because the glaring sunlight will dissuade you from trying to read it at all. Then you won't have to suffer through this nonsense.
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Reading Progress

07/19/2011 page 100
22.0% "I'm a little disappointed in the writing style...too childish. Plus "Toinette" does not hold my interest at all. But I'm willing to suspend my disbelief till the end..." 2 comments
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Kagama-the Literaturevixen I am currently reading this and I too caught the glaring factual error of "Toinette" Not to mention the mention of her becoming betrothed to Louis XVI...at age 10. If were really interested in the life of Marie Antoinette,she would know that this only came about by her two older sister dying of the smallpox.If they had lived they would have been candidates for marrying the dauphin. But since they didn not..the empress had only Marie Antoinette left to chose from. MA-s older sister Maria Carolina if not for the older sisters dying could also have been a candidate for a bride. Imagination is all very good...but if youre writing a historical fiction at least get your facts straight.


Deborah Pickstone I enjoyed the book, knowing little of the history (she had always disinterested me as a character) but was frustrated by the historical inaccuracies and especially by the way the character did not develop. I found the second book ham-fisted and disjointed but persevered. I have the last of the three but wonder if I will bother to read it?


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