At 13, Maria Antonia, Archduchess of Austria, does not realize that she will be remembered as one of the most notorious queens in history. In historian Erickson's fascinating first novel, Marie Antoinette records her life in a secret diary, revealing a vibrant and intelligent woman little known by the masses who later executed her. Instead of the frivolous, sex-crazed maniac she was labeled, this is a woman who loves her children, is fond of her husband, and feels some pangs of guilt for the poor. But as the product of her upbringing, she does not see the imminent danger in living extravagantly. She is desperate for her husband to be a leader and, later, when their lives are in danger, for him to flee. This intimate look at a misunderstood woman by the author of a biography on the same subject (To the Scaffold: The Life of Marie Antoinette) is highly recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/05.]-Anna M. Nelson, Collier Cty. P.L., Naples, FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Historian Erickson (Bloody Mary; To the Scaffold; etc.) makes her first foray into fiction with this invented journal kept by the notorious queen who was sent to the guillotine during the French Revolution in 1793. Recounting her childhood as Austrian Archduchess Maria Antonia, her marriage to feckless Frenchman Louis XVI and her na?ve pangs of conscience about hungry peasants clamoring at the gates of Versailles, Erickson delivers a spirited blend of fiction and fact. While Marie Antoinette's love affair with Swedish nobleman Axel Fersen is well-documented, other characters pivotal to Erickson's plot are pure fabrication: swarthy servant Eric, his jealous wife, Amelie, and the queen's confessor, Father Kuthibert. These inventions add color to the story of the ruler inaccurately linked to the phrase "Let them eat cake!" The novel's narrative engagingly reflects Marie Antoinette's progression from privileged adolescent to royal mother of four (though only one daughter and son survived into adulthood), and Erickson's descriptions of pomp and circumstance lend flavor and flair. While France's most infamous queen was clearly more sybarite than saint, Erickson's lively account reveals a woman whose bravery and resilience seem as noteworthy as the bloody details of her demise. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-Best known for her highly readable biographies of European nobility, Erickson tries her hand at historical fiction. She approaches the life of one of France's most notorious queens from a first-person perspective, which allows her cleverly to blend fact and fiction. The diary spans 24 years, from Marie's childhood in Vienna to the eve of her execution. She is married to Crown Prince Louis at age 14 to form a political alliance. Her husband is shy and reclusive, given to escaping to the woods to catalog plants, and has little interest in women, including his wife. Even after he becomes Louis XVI, his eccentricities keep him cut off from the world. Marie Antoinette, meanwhile, hides her loneliness in extravagant parties and frivolous expenditures. No wonder that as the years progress both sovereigns are more and more out of touch with the populace. Erickson's picture of the queen is much different from the uncaring, "Let them eat cake" persona that is popularly evoked. There is no attempt to hide her tragic flaws, but her generosity, good intentions, and deep love for her children humanize her and make her more of a three-dimensional character. The use of the diary is, at times, contrived and awkward: in an attempt to provide background information, the queen's writing is inconsistent in places. However, this is an excellent piece of historical fiction, and a valuable companion to more accurate biographies.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.