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Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser: A Book Review

Marie Antoinette: The Journey
Author: Antonia Fraser
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Publisher: Anchor
Release Date: 2006
Pages: 512
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: France's iconic queen, Marie Antoinette, wrongly accused of uttering the infamous "Let them eat cake," was alternately revered and reviled during her lifetime. For centuries since, she has been the object of debate, speculation, and the fascination so often accorded illustrious figures in history. Married in mere girlhood, this essentially lighthearted child was thrust onto the royal stage and commanded by circumstance to play a significant role in European history. Antonia Fraser's lavish and engaging portrait excites compassion and regard for all aspects of the queen, immersing the reader not only in the coming-of-age of a graceful woman, but in the culture of an unparalleled time and place.

     My review: Marie Antoinette is one of history's most hated women. Her reputation has been negative both in popular culture and historians alike. Giving us a different take of Marie Antoinette is no easy feat. However, Antonia Fraser takes us on a journey through Marie Antoinette's life and challenges the popular myths of the Queen and gives us an intimate portrait of France's infamous villianess.

     Antonia Fraser's biography is very sympathetic to Marie Antoinette. She was never meant to be queen. Her education was mostly neglected, which suggests that her mother did not know what to do with her and did not give her much attention. So Marie Antoinette focused on her passion of acting and singing. Her childhood was happy, and it seemed that her future might also be happy. However, she became queen by accident and was forced to be in a position she was not ready for.

     This book focuses on Marie Antoinette's personality. She had a good heart and was very naive. One of the good acts that Antonia focused on was that she saved a peasant boy. It also focused on how she wanted to be a mother for years and because she couldn't have children she took her sadness out on gambling, dresses, and dancing. When she did finally have children, she was a devoted mother.

     I also liked how she discussed the court of Versailles. It was a very complicated structure, but Antonia made it comprehensible for the general reader. Marie Antoinette was often criticized by the court because she was a foreigner. She was pressured by them because she didn't give France a son. I found myself pitying her.

     Overall, this biography takes us to Marie Antoinette's idyllic childhood, through the glittering lavish court of Versailles to the terrifying guillotine. The writing is very engaging and reads like a soap opera for it is full of drama, betrayal, and scandal. Antonia Fraser answers questions that we had about Marie Antoinette, for example her relationship to Axel Ferson. She also gives us details about Marie Antoinette that we never realized until she mentioned it. For instance, Marie Antoinette never saw the sea. What I also liked about this book that I wished more biographers would do is how her subject affects us in popular culture. Marie Antoinette's reputation still has a myriad of work to cover. However, Antonia Fraser's biography is a beginning that we will start to see her in a different light. I recommend this to anyone who is interested in the French Revolution and who are willing to see Marie Antoinette in a sympathetic light.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Here is the official movie trailer of Marie Antoinette that is based off of Antonia Fraser's biography, Marie Antoinette: The Journey:

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