Michele's Reviews > Becoming Marie Antoinette

Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey
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Aug 09, 11

bookshelves: fiction, french-revolution, historical-fiction
Read in August, 2011 — I own a copy

This is the first novel I've read by this author (who has written books under different names) and I was really excited about the subject since I'm an admittedly huge fan of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. They have always had my sympathy for being caught in a horrible situation not really of their making and I think this novel does justice to them.

The first of a proposed trilogy, Becoming Marie Antoinette follows the young archduchess of Austria through her childhood as the youngest daughter of the Empress Maria Theresa. We get to witness her relationship with the siblings she was closest to as well as her interesting relationship with her mother, who was quite eager to use all of her children as diplomatic pawns for Austria (something to be quite expected in royal families).

As a character, I liked Marie Antoinette here, as well as most of the supporting characters. The author/publisher has been touting the vast amount of historical research that went in to this novel and I won't disagree with that assertion. (The use of the nickname "Toinette" might be an exception to this...no one in her family ever referred to her as such, but that's no big deal and doesn't interrupt the narrative of the story at all.)

I'd like to be able to give the novel 3.5 stars, but with no half-stars available, I wavered for a while before settling on 3 stars. Mostly this is because there were some things about the novel that prevented me from losing myself in the story.

Firstly, the author has gone to great pains to emphasize Marie Antoinette's lackluster education. And she's absolutely correct. But the novel is told in first person narrative from MA's point of view and throughout the narrative, MA continually uses a vocabulary that is completely inconsistent with her education (or lack thereof). Phrases in the narrative (not dialog) include things like:

"After a battery of imprecations...."

"In another week or two, red and yellow tulips would dot the parterres and perimeters...."

"....so that his slipper jutted at an oblique angle...."

"“Immediately I felt inadequate and wished that my own bosom was as pulchritudinous...."

Vocabulary such as this isn't inappropriate in a novel by any means, but it's somewhat jarring coming from a young teenaged girl known for her lack of education. It tends to pull the reader out of the narrative.

There is also a lot of repetition throughout the novel. For example, we are told over and over that the Hapsburg family motto, 'Others wage wars to succeed, but you, fortunate Hapsburg, marry!'

As for my recommendation, I'd say that this novel would be a fine read for the beach (or any environment where there are a lot of distractions going on around you) because it's easy to follow the storyline. Sex, violence or language are practically non-existent which would make this a good selection for a young adult audience, too. If you're looking for an in-depth, historically convoluted treatment of these characters, you might be disappointed. But if you're just looking for a light, fun read that includes tons of fashion and interior design descriptions (which are sumptuous, by the way) then you'll probably really enjoy this novel.

As I said before, I'm thrilled with the subject matter of the novel (yay for MA and Louis!). The execution of the novel could have been better, but that's certainly just one person's opinion and I'm certain you can judge for yourself whether or not you'd enjoy this book.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Book must have landed today?


Michele Oh yes. I'm fiddling around reading "Madame Tussard" right now (sort of....Harry Potter keeps dragging me away) and then I'll start a thread. :)


Michele review to come....


message 4: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit We're waiting...


message 5: by Marg (new)

Marg Very interested. Have resisted urge to download at Netgalley


Michele Not sure if you'd like it or not, Marg. It's "light," easy to read, but not too much to sink your teeth into. Depends on your reading mood at the time, I'd say.


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