"Like everyone, I am born naked."
With this opening line of Naslund's compelling new novel, a very human
Marie Antoinette invites readers to live her story as she herself
experiences it. From the lush gardens of Versailles to the lights and
gaiety of Paris, the verdant countryside of France, and finally the
stark and terrifying isolation of a prison cell, the young queen's life
is joyful, poignant, and harrowing by turns. As her world of
unprecedented royal splendor crumbles, the charming Marie Antoinette
matures into a heroine of inspiring stature, one whose nobility arises
not from the circumstance of her birth but from her courageous spirit.
Marie Antoinette was a child of fourteen when her mother, the
Empress of Austria, arranged for her to leave her family and her
country to become the wife of the fifteen-year-old Dauphin, the future
King of France. Coming of age in the most public of arenas, the young
queen embraces her new family and the French people, and she is
embraced in return. Eager to be a good wife and strong queen, she shows
her new husband nothing but love and encouragement, though he
repeatedly fails to consummate their marriage and in doing so, fails to
give her the thing sheand the people of Francedesire most: a child
and an heir to the throne.
Deeply disappointed and isolated in her own intimate circle apart
from the social life of the court, the queen allows herself to remain
ignorant of the country's growing economic and political crises. She
entrusts her soul to her women friends, her music teacher, her
hairdresser, the ambassador from Austria, and a certain Swedish count
so handsome that admirers label him "the Picture." When her innocent
and well-chaperoned pilgrimage to watch the sun rise is viciously
misrepresented in satiric pamphlets as a drunken orgy, the people begin
to turn against her. Poor harvests, bitter winters, war debts, and
poverty precipitate rebellion and revenge as the royal family and many
nobles are caught up in a murderous time known as "the Terror."
With penetrating insight into new historical scholarship and with
wondrous narrative skill, Naslund offers an intimate, fresh, and
dramatic re-creation of this compelling woman that goes beyond popular
reveals a compassionate and spontaneous Marie Antoinette who rejected
the formality and rigid protocol of the court; an enchanting and
tenderhearted outsider who was loved by her adopted homeland and people
until she became the target of revolutionary cruelty and violence; a
dethroned queen whose depth of character sustained her in even the
worst of times.
Once again, Sena Jeter Naslund has shed new light on an important
moment of historical change and made that time as real to us as the one
we are living now. Exquisitely detailed, beautifully written,
heartbreaking and powerful, Abundance is a novel that is impossible to put down.