Marie Thérèse, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel
Unabridged, 18 hr. 14 min.
Books on Tape
Rosalyn Landor (Narrator)
March 4, 2008
Genre: Non Fiction, Biography
Source: Downloaded the audio from my local library
“The first major biography of one of France's most mysterious women--Marie Antoinette's only child to survive the revolution.
Susan Nagel, author of the critically acclaimed biography Mistress of the Elgin Marbles, turns her attention to the life of a remarkable woman who both defined and shaped an era, the tumultuous last days of the crumbling ancient régime. Nagel brings the formidable Marie-Thérèse to life, along with the age of revolution and the waning days of the aristocracy, in a page-turning biography that will appeal to fans of Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette and Amanda Foreman's Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire.
Nagel's gripping narrative captures the events of her fascinating life from her very public birth in front of the rowdy crowds and her precocious childhood to her hideous time in prison and her later reincarnation in the public eye as a saint, and, above all, her fierce loyalty to France throughout.”
I have not spent much time previously reading about the time period surrounding the French Revolution and accordingly I did not know much about Marie Thérèse, Madame Royale, either. When I have seen her appear in historical novels she is typically a child with an apparent attitude problem – and I was sure that there was more to her than that, however until now I didn’t know just what it was. Nagel’s book follows Marie Thérèse from the opulent Bourbon court, to incarceration at the Temple Prison, to exile at various courts of Europe, Restoration in France, and to the final exile and her death. There was SO much more to this woman’s life than I had any idea of!
The woman that evolves from Nagel’s portrait is a very strong woman who would do anything for France. Even after all that she went through during the Revolution she forgave the people and wanted to go back to bring the country back to glory again. She had more resolve and forgiveness than most people. By the end of the book you truly come to know Marie Thérèse is her own right – not just as the daughter of Marie Antoinette. She is truly someone that more people should know about – especially in her later life.
The first section of the book dealt primarily with the retelling of the life of Marie Antoinette – how she came to France, her petit Trianon, issues with her marriage, etc. There was little mention of Marie Thérèse throughout this section. I felt that with this being a book of Marie Thérèse, not Marie Antoinette that this section was WAY too long. I understand that the author needed to set up the scene and establish Marie Thérèse’s deep love for her mother – but it felt like I was reading a Marie Antoinette biography instead.
I also had an issue with the Dark Countess portion of the book. There is one rumor that Marie Thérèse was switched with another at some point after leaving the Temple Prison and that the real Marie Thérèse was actually this person known as the Dark Countess living far afield and that the person who was portrayed to the world as Marie Thérèse was an impostor. This was all explained more in the afterword, however throughout the book when this thread was brought up, I had no idea what this had to do with anything and found that I couldn’t connect it. I think it would have been more effectual to place the whole discussion of the Dark Countess in the afterword.
Overall, this was a wonderful biography of a woman who is lesser known than her mother, but whom more should be known about.
The narration here was excellent. The narrator had a French accent which made the story being told feel more natural. It was also great to learn pronunciations of names and places that I have always struggled with. I actually found myself repeating after the narrator to learn how to say things.
Author Susan Nagel also has written Mistress of the Elgin Marbles. You can visit her blog for additional information about the books.
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