Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Becoming Marie Antoinette - Juliet Grey

Title: Becoming Marie Antoinette (Book 1)
Author: Juliet Grey
Paperback: 444 pages (ARE version)
Publisher: Ballantine/Random House
Published Date: August 9, 2011
FTC: received for TLC Book Tours

When I saw that TLC Book Tours was hosting Juliet Grey's new novel Becoming Marie Antoinette, I quickly asked if I could join.  I am completely fascinated with the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette's role.  I've read some books revolving around the Revolution but this is my first book about Marie Antoinette.  I always thought she was misunderstood.  What do they always say? Truth is stranger (and sometimes a lot more interesting) that fiction?  Book one in a trilogy of Marie Antoinette's life, it spans her childhood in Vienna to her marriage to the dauphin of France, Louis XVI.  The book ends with King Louis XV's death which will propel the young couple into the life of King and Queen of France.

This is historical fiction at it's finest.  The book starts out with ten-year old Marie Antonia growing up in her Vienna palace surrounded by beloved sisters and brothers (click here for amazing 360 degree photos of the palace rooms).  While I knew Marie Antoinette wasn't French, I had no clue about her illustrious upbringing as the daughter of Empress Maria Theresa - she was one of sixteen children!  Can  you imagine this being your mother?

Ahem. Yeah.  At the beginning of the book we learn her family, The Hapsburg Dynasty's motto: Others wage ware; you, happy Austria, marry.  I loved Antonia's close relationship with her sister Charlotte (Maria Carolina):

Can you imagine growing up with your sister, only to have her married off to be Queen of Naples and Sicily and never seeing her again?

Marie Antonia and her siblings purpose was to provide peace for Europe.  Coming out of a couple of wars, Austria needed peace and allies.  Marie Antonia's learned her purpose: to marry dauphin of France to ensure her country would not be overrun by the Russians or the Prussians.  Talk about the weight of the world on your shoulders!

What I adored about this novel is how sympathetic Marie Antonia is and how much she strives to be what her mother wants her to be.  Amazingly, Marie Antonia's education is pretty neglected so as soon as her impending marriage is decided, her life's purpose is to become a suitable match for the dauphin of France.

Her appearance must be altered to make a young girl appear to be a woman capable of being a wife and mother.  Marie Antonia gets braces (how crazy is that?), a personal hairstylist, dance lessons, and training how to do the Versailles glide (walking that looks like you're gliding on air).  She must learn geography, French, court customs, the list goes on and on. 

I loved looking up the images of Marie Antoinette.  Did you know she had two portraits painted so the King of France could see her image and approve her match?  The first portrait made her appear too young and the Empress immediately requested another one made.  Here's the first one:

Here's the one they approved:

I was absolutely amazed by Juliet Grey's ability to weave a ton of fact into a lovely novel about a girl forced to marry a boy she'd never seen.  Her sympathy and affection for both Marie Antonia and her husband, the young dauphin, is quite clear and beautifully rendered.  Don't expect this book to be a quick or light read.  It's chock full of historical detail (which I love) and takes it time to build up (she finally meets the dauphin about 200 pages into the book). 

Juliet Grey will be coming out with the second book- Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow - next summer.  I can not wait.

PS - Passages to the Past is hosting a live chat with Juliet Grey tonight - August 10th 7-8 PM EST.

Juliet Grey’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, August 1st:  Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, August 3rd:  Well Read Wife
Thursday, August 4th:  Broken Teepee
Monday, August 8th:  Coffee and a Book Chick
Tuesday, August 9th:  The Maiden’s Court
Wednesday, August 10th:  A Library of My Own
Thursday, August 11th:  Stiletto Storytime
Monday, August 15th:  In the Hammock
Tuesday, August 16th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, August 17th:  Laura’s Reviews
Thursday, August 18th:  Unabridged Chick
Monday, August 22nd:  The Broke and the Bookish
Tuesday, August 23rd:  Stephanie’s Written Word
Wednesday, August 24th:  2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Monday, August 29th:  Book Reviews by Molly
Wednesday, August 31st:  So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Date TBD:  Historical Tapestry 

Also Reviewed by:

Devourer of Books
Historical Fiction
Fyrefly's Book Blog
Historical Fiction
Endless Reading
Scandalous Women (Guest Post by Juliet Grey)
Pittsburgh, PA Examiner (Interview w/ Juliet Grey)

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