Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from publisher as part of TLC Book Tour
"This enthralling confection of a novel, the first in a new trilogy, follows the transformation of a coddled Austrian archduchess into the reckless, powerful, beautiful queen Marie Antoinette.
Why must it be me? I wondered. When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny?
Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.
Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must change everything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen.
Filled with smart history, treacherous rivalries, lavish clothes, and sparkling jewels, Becoming Marie Antoinette will utterly captivate fiction and history lovers alike."Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first book in a planned trilogy about the life of this notoriously well know Queen of France. In this first outing, author Juliet Grey takes us on a journey from the Austrian court at Schonbrunn where Maria Antonia spent many of her younger days to the glistening palace at Versailles where Marie Antoinette emerges. For me, this was my first real foray into a novel about this queen and I was not at all disappointed with the details of her growing up that were included.
Most books on Marie Antoinette skim over the details of her younger life to get to “the good stuff” - her downfall courtesy of Madame Guillotine. One of my favorite aspects of this book was that the first half of the book really focuses on her formative years growing up under the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. You really get a feel for that court - which also does not usually get much of a novel treatment - and Marie’s family. Her sisters, especially Charlotte and Josepha, were her closest companions. We also learn a lot about their mother, Empress Maria Theresa and oldest brother, Emperor Joseph. It was refreshing to get to know a court that is not usually represented in fiction.
One of the most vivid scenes for me was during the time Marie had to go through improvements to become acceptable to marry the dauphin of France. I did not realize that they had braces back then and the process that was described sounded very familiar to my own experience with braces at age 10. This scene was probably the one thing that really endeared Marie to me - although I have to imagine that her experience with them was probably worse then mine!
I had a love/hate relationship with the writing style of this novel. First the good - I really loved the French and German that were peppered throughout the narrative. Even without know hardly any of either of those languages it was easy enough to derive the meaning from the context. During her years at the Austrian court this switch between languages served to show which state of mind Marie was in - slipping easily back into German when excited or upset. I did, however, have issues with some of the word choices used. There were times when it felt like I needed to have a dictionary constantly at the ready because every fourth or fifth word I didn’t know - and I tend to consider that I have a decent vocabulary. There was an overuse of “Thesaurus words” which really left me frustrated because they were either an unnecessary choice or frequently over used. It just made for much slower reading. Here is an example:
“Immediately I felt inadequate and wished that my own bosom was as pulchritudinous and had been molded to such perfection” (ARC pg 223).
Overall, I really enjoyed this take on the teenage years of Marie Antoinette’s life. We leave her on the verge of just becoming queen. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of Marie Antoinette and wants to see a more personable side of her. The second book Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow will pick up where we left our newly minted king and queen.
This is author Juliet Grey’s first novel in a planned trilogy. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
My review of other books by this author:
Reviews of this book by others:
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