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Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey: A Book Review

Becoming Marie Antoinette
Author: Juliet Grey
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 2011
Pages: 466
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: This enthralling confection of a novel, the first in a new trilogy follows the transformation of a coddled Austrian archduchess into the reckless, powerful, beautiful queen Marie Antoinette.

     “Why must it be me?” I wondered. 

    When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny?”

     Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.

     Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must change everything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. But does she possess the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen?

     My Review: This is the first book of Juliet Grey’s trilogy of Marie Antoinette. This novel tells the story of the early life of Marie Antoinette as an archduchess of Austria and the crown princess of France. In this novel, the Empress of Austria takes her youngest and conventional daughter and grooms her to become a beautiful, sophisticated, and political savvy queen to help strengthen Austria's alliance with France. The author shows that it was not easy for Marie Antoinette to marry the dauphin of France.

     In the beginning of the novel, Marie Antoinette is a ten-year old archduchess named Marie Antonia that doesn't like to do her lessons and would rather catch butterflies with her older sister, Charlotte. However, when the King of France takes an interest in Maria Antonia as a possible wife for the dauphin, the Empress of Austria is determined to do anything that will make her daughter a suitable dauphine of France. However, Maria Antonia has a high forehead, a prominent Hapsburg lip that sometimes gives her a haughty expression, and crooked teeth. Not only must she change her physical appearance by wearing a different hairstyle and having her teeth straightened, but she must also learn to speak French and adopt French customs and etiquette.

     When Marie Antoinette eventually becomes dauphine of France, she is portrayed as stubborn, naive, childish, and judgmental, pitting herself against her husband’s aunts, who dislike her because she is Austrian. Nothing brings them pleasure than to see her fall. She holds stern grudge for Madame Du Barry, the mistress of Louis XV. She ignores her mother’s wishes to speak to Madame Du Barry and continues to snub her, for example, refusing Madame Du Barry’s jewels. Eventually, she agrees to speak to Madame Du Barry, but only spoke a few words to her in her lifetime. Her life as dauphine shows her as naive and how easily she can be used and manipulated as a pawn by her enemies that wish her ill.

     Overall, this book reads like a soap opera. The book is filled with lies and deception, betrayal, scandal, and humor. It is about a young princess that tries to maneuver her way in a hostile court to people who pretend to be her friends but are, in actuality, her enemies. The only drawback from this book is that the French words seems unnecessary in this novel, and it slows the pace of the reading down. This novel is very sympathetic to Marie Antoinette. I recommend this book to fans of Philippa Gregory, and anyone interested in historical fiction.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is the author's official book trailer of Becoming Marie Antoinette:


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