Monday, October 22, 2012

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow - Juliet Grey

Title: Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow
Author: Juliet Grey
Paperback: 399 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Published date: May 2012
FTC: Received to review for HF Virtual Book Tours

When I was asked if I wanted to join in the tour for Juliet Grey's second Marie Antoinette book for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours I was ecstatic. I adored her first book Becoming Marie Antoinette (my review) and even got a chance to chat with her over at Amy's awesome blog Passages to the Past. Juliet Grey's books are a beautiful combination of historical fact and fiction.  I fell in love with Marie Antoinette even more in this book. You can bet I will be looking forward to buying her last book in the trilogy, The Last October Sky.

(Come back tomorrow and I'll be giving away a copy of Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow!!)

The back of the book:

Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen's elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deep fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.

From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attache Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles -- one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.

My thoughts:

I am an official fan of this trilogy. Well done Juliet Grey! What a story.  The book starts out with a bit of foreshadowing -- it's 1786 and an unnamed women is being tried and punished for her involvement with the royalty of France. Flash back to 1774 and Papa Roi (Louis's grandfather) has passed away which means Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette will become the King and Queen (actually consort) of France.  I had no clue before reading this that the Queen of France really didn't have much power and only the King of France was "crowned" King.  In fact, reading these books I've learned a lot of things about this period in history that I had never known before. I really wish these books were around when I was learning about the French Revolution in college.

But the best part of the book is how much the story humanizes Marie Antoinette and her husband Louis XIV.  Most of the story is told in first person narrative which really made it an intimate story.  Interspersed are often letters to and from her maman, Maria Theresa of Austria.  We see how much she loved her family in Austria, but how much she came to find France and her husband her new family.  I loved her spunk -- she desperately wanted to have babies and a family but at the same time she was very much a young girl who was enjoying life which often got her into trouble.

It's such an interesting story because we all know what happens in the end. But somehow even with the forshadowing at the beginning and hints throughout about how it's going to end, I am like Marie Antoinette and just can't or won't believe that her people will turn on her and her family. Surprisingly too, I fell in love with her husband Louis XVI and feel the tragedy that the Revolution happened to a king who was so surprisingly human and full of desire to be a good king, husband, and father.

Juliet Grey has a pretty awesome section at the back of the book about writing Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow and love this quote:

"As I breathed the life into characters who to some readers may be little more than names from a history book, I saw them as vibrant and vital, complex and flawed."

This is exactly what she accomplished.  Well done!

Marie Antoinette in Muslin

Head over to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for more bloggers reviewing this awesome book.

1 comment:

  1. I read the first book in the trilogy and really loved it. I agree that the author does indeed make Marie Antionette very human. I was amazed how well she handled being sent from her home to a new city in a new country. She was brave!