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.
Marie Antoinette has been much maligned over the last couple of centuries; but many recent books, most notably Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette (non-fiction) have gone a long way to putting flesh back on to the caricature. Naslund adds value by allowing Marie Antoinette to speak for herself, giving us access to the secret thoughts and feelings (albeit hypothetical) of the young queen - territory that a biographer must be wary of entering. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Washington Post - Ron Charles
Naslund commands historical details to portray the world's most extravagant palace in all its dazzling splendor and inane ceremony. Her study of contemporary memoirs and letters allows her to speak in a voice that conveys the queen's delicacy and earnestness as she strives to be the embodiment of peace between Austria and France.
Starred Review. With vivid detail and exquisite narrative technique, Naslund exemplifies the best of historical fiction, finding the woman beneath the pose, a queen facing history as it rises up against her.
Booklist - Mary Ellen Quinn
The reputation of a queen once scorned for her frivolity has undergone a rehabilitation lately....and Naslund's portrayal is firmly in that camp. Readers of serious historical fiction will revel in it.
Naslund's marvelous work is more detailed and has more depth than Carolly Erickson's The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette. Highly recommended.
Naslund has done her homework, and imagined her complex, bewitching protagonist in persuasive depth and detail. The result is an exemplary historical novel.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Cariola Fascinating Portrait Naslund's portrait of Marie Antoinette makes the doomed queen a much more multifacted and interesting character than previous historical novels. The technique of interweaving letters between her and her mother with the narration of events worked... Read More
Sena Jeter Naslund was born in Birmingham, Alabama; her mother taught music
and her father, who died when she was 15, was a doctor; she has two older
brothers. In high school she played cello with the Alabama Pops Orchestra.
She won a music scholarship to the University of Alabama but turned it down in
favor of studying writing at Birmingham-Southern College. While she was there
she attended the Breadloaf Writers' Conference - a two week series of lectures,
workshops and classes (since 1926, the conference has been held annually at the
Breadloaf Inn, Middlebury, Vermont and claims to be the oldest writers'
conference in the USA).
After graduating from Birmingham-Southern, she was accepted at the Iowa Writers'
Workshop at the University of Iowa where she received her MA and PhD degrees in
creative writing. In 1971 she was hired as a Visiting Professor in the MFA
program at the University of Montana. The following year, she accepted a
teaching position at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, where she
directed the creative writing program...
With the skill of a consummate storyteller, Chantal Thomas meticulously re-creates the miniature universe of Versailles, brilliantly juxtaposing its beauty and its dawn-to-dusk ritual with the chaos that erupts.
The winner of Britain's prestigious Whitbread Prize and a bestseller there for months, this wonderfully readable biography offers a rich, rollicking picture of late-eighteenth-century British aristocracy and the intimate story of a woman who for a time was its undisputed leader.
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