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Becoming Marie Antoinette

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  • Posted October 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    How to Become a Perfect Queen!

    Marie Antoinette's life began as the youngest archduchess of Austria, her mother, Maria Teresa, the Empress of the Holy Roman Empire and Austria. Madam Antonia, as she is known until her marriage, is expected to excel in all academic subjects as well as social skills. For her mother is planning to unite the fortunes of Austria and France by wedding her daughter to the Dauphin, the son of King Louis XV. But Madame Antonia is just beginning her teen years when she discovers how she is to be remade in her mother's image of what a French Queen should be! Juliet Grey does a fine, fine job of conveying the stark and boring quality of this life by combining it with Marie's vivacious and humorous nature. If she keeps her spunk, a fine Queen she will be!

    The novel proceeds with the reader receiving descriptions of wondrous clothing, meals, and landscapes in Marie's childhood world, broken by the devastating death of one sibling and departure of another to be Queen in another land. Slowly but surely, Marie realizes and desires her role in life is to obey her mother and satisfy every demand for the sake of Austria. It's a heavy burden and one that prevents rebellion, given the alternative destiny of a break with France and more wars that accomplish nothing but death and destruction.

    An amazing ceremony occurs when Marie is finally wed by proxy and travels through Austria into France. There she discovers a dauphin who is phenomenally shy and totally uninterested in touching Marie, let alone consummating their marriage. In the light of the King's flagrant flaunting of his mistress and other "loose" behavior occurring in the King's court, this quandary is irksome but then soon changes to sympathy and actual liking of the Dauphin. For he is a "man of the people" in his heart and mind and totally uninterested in the boring, garish world of the elite, a fascinating characterization given what was the norm of royal behavior at the time, completely and elaborately described in these pages. Lovers of fashion and style can immerse themselves in pages of French couture and cuisine of Marie's 18th Century French court.

    Marie and her husband evolve into sympathetic characters but not without their detractors, as Marie begins to spurn court etiquette, threatening a way of luxury and splendor for the entire French court but endearing the young couple to the reader and common people.

    The novel ends on a hopeful note, where the Dauphin becomes King Louis XVI and Marie becomes the Queen of France. Each have a vision full of charity and benefit for the French people, the fulfillment of which will be presented in two forthcoming novels about their life. Juliet Grey's initial novel about the cursed Queen is quite innocent yet revealing. A young girl is forced to grow up fast and become the perfect "Queen," a sacrifice to politics as her mother would admit frequently. Her training is her childhood, one that terrorizes her more with fearful anticipation of failure than actual events that will someday be her nemesis. Etiquette is all and impression is everything! The machinations of a French court full of fawning and deception creates an atmosphere of distrust that is the norm rather than the exception. Congratulations, Ms. Grey, on your fine fictional account of this very real, audacious world and the transformation of a naive, unsure girl into a formidable worldly leader! Superbly done!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2012

    "Becoming Marie Antoinette" presents a part of the Que

    "Becoming Marie Antoinette" presents a part of the Queen's story, I never knew - her life as an Austrian girl, growing up with her family, and the tragedy's she faced early on. It's very interesting, very well written, hard to put down. Must read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2012

    Very enjoyable

    I am a huge fan if historical fiction, mostly Phillipa Gregory. I truly enjoyed this book not wanting it to end. I cant wait for the next book in May 2012

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012


    Very enjoyable and easy to read. If yiu enjoy Philippa Gregory, you will like this

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2013

    Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first installment of the Marie

    Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first installment of the Marie Antoinette trilogy by Juliet Gray. This is a fun and educational read.

    I previously knew very little about Marie Antoinette, only that she was the queen of France who was beheaded during the French Revolution and that she once said, of the starving masses, "Let them eat cake!" Now, I feel sympathetic toward her, having the weight of the world placed upon her young shoulders beginning at the tender age of 10, when it was first suggested that she should marry Louis XVI and cement the treaty between Austria and France. She was constantly reprimanded by her ambitious mother, who withheld the simplest demonstrations of affection or comfort, then at 14 sent to Versailles without the slightest hope of ever seeing her beloved Austria or family ever again.

    Once married and living in the palace at Versailles, I admire the way our heroine strove diligently to follow the often ridiculous French etiquette and to live above reproach. It was also fun to read about the crazy behavior of the upper echelon and to hear about the unusual circumstances of Marie Antoinette's marriage with a husband so shy that he could barely touch her for years and how she learned to love him, offering patience and understanding, for all his shortcomings.

    And, just for the record, Marie Antoinette never did say, "Let them eat cake!"

    This novel ends as Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI ascend the throne of France, and I am eagerly anticipating the next two books to learn how the rest of her story unfolds.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Great book!!

    This was great! Really well written, and it turns out to be a trilogy. It was very interesting to learn about what Marie Antoinette had to go through to become even "a suitable" candidate for the French dauphin's hand in marriage. A very detailed view into the pre-Versailles, and the early French life of France's most talked about Queen! A great read! Cannot wait for the rest of this series.

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  • Posted October 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Infectious confection

    Becoming Marie Antoinette starts at the beginning where Marie Antoinette is still balancing her courtly lessons with her desire to chase after butterflies. She hardly seems ready to reign and dance through the political webs of French court, especially with a husband equally ill-prepared. Juliet Grey brings this young woman to life and captures her voice so vividly that one cannot help but to love her. I especially enjoyed the moments when Marie tries to capture Louis's attention - their relationship seems so beautiful in its awkwardness. The only downside that I noticed was the ending. Granted, Becoming Marie Antoinette is simply Book 1 in a series, but I had wished it had continued a little bit longer just when the story starts to take off.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2011

    Is it ok

    I have to do a book project in historical fiction and i am wondering if i should get this book. I have read other books for younger readers about marie and she truly is an interesting subject. I really hope my teacher improves this book because i want to use it

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Always Antoinette~Fall Reading At Its Best!

    Any book that starts with "Marie Antoinette" has my immediate reaction. My hand springs out to grasp it, and it's mine forever. It could be the worst written book on earth, but it's destined for my library just the same! Fortunately, I'm very pleased to report this book, "Becoming Marie Antoinette," is not the worst book written about her; rather, it's one of the best novels I've read! From the early sentences in which we're introduced to the voice and mind of Antoinette to the final wishes of her heart and mind, Juliet Grey captured her essence and my imagination. This is a gorgeously covered book I'm delighted to have on my library shelf. Marie's childhood with its transformations and enlightenment are subtlely rendered in this beautifully written novel. Without any doubt, her all-consuming desire to please her oft-times distant and withholding mother plays a primary role in Marie's life. She spends her life in isolation from the mother, desiring only to make her proud, longing for her love and communication. This aspect of Antoinette's life has always been tender and pitiful to me. What child hasn't wished the same. But, in a world where these relationships are put aside for the greater duties, it seems cruel and heartbreaking. Ms Grey deals with the situation marvelously. Antoinette's loneliness and shunning at Court is well integrated, also. Court descriptions: decor, the required manners and sly "niceities" of the French aristocracy, and insights into the Dauphin are drawn in a new and interesting way by Grey. That's difficult to do, given all that's been written on the subject! I also, as always, love to read about the fashions and finery that accompanied Marie Antoinette. These things just never bore me. I'm not ordinarily a huge fan of contemporary "historical fiction" in the weighty "romance" genre; but, you will find the highest quality of the original intent for this fiction in Juliet Grey's novel. I found it well-researched, not over-blown with melodrama and too grand dialog or gratuitous sex scenes! Thankfully. The inner dialog and narration of Antoinette is pitch perfect. It captivated me. This is a kindly and humane painting of the young girl that is sympathetic and lovely to read. I like Ms Grey's style. She's an easy author to enjoy. I have only one reservation to report: I learned German growing up in Nurenburg and Munich. (Marie's original tongue!) I've had no French lessons except those my French-speaking children taught me! One of the things that broke the rhythm for me in this novel was the use of many french words. This sort of thing always causes me to stop and struggle over trying to decipher the meaning, since I can't pass up an intellectual challenge. I'll even put a book down to run for a dictionary. I would suggest, perhaps, a feature in her next book that provides an easy source of translation. Ms Grey doesn't want readers putting her book aside for any reason! This book is the first in a trilogy. So, you may want to get your copy now. I think you'll find it's good reading for a cozy Fall season. 4 1/2 twinkling French stars

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  • Posted September 28, 2011

    history that is never boring...

    The most I know of Marie Antoinette is that she was a worldly queen who got beheaded for her extravagance. Reading Becoming Marie Antoinette has not only proven me wrong, but has also given me enough interesting views of her life and true character to keep me yearning for more. Was she really as complacent and uncaring as popular history had depicted her, or had she simply been misunderstood, falling prey to the blaming fingers of her French subordinates, being a foreign queen and all?

    Maria Antonia, youngest archduchess of Austria, was a typical young girl who loved to play and frolic instead of burying her nose in books and lessons of import. Her life changed drastically when she was forced to mature beyond her years to marry the dauphin of France, Louis Auguste, therefore sealing a most important alliance between two countries previously at war with each other. Becoming Marie Antoinette is about this young girl's transformation from a frolicking hoyden with not much womanhood to speak of into the most charmingly delightful woman in the French court. The journey was never easy, and even as her formal lessons were over, she found out she still had so much to learn, so much to become, before she could finally fit into her new home in Versailles, France. The fact that her husband didn't seem to want to touch her was only making matters worse. And with elders constantly telling her to do this and that, sometimes even contradicting themselves, Maria Antonia felt like a helpless pawn in the chessboard of politics and royalty.

    But she managed to remain resilient and idealistic of her role as the future queen of France, although a few missteps could not have been prevented. Becoming Marie Antoinette provides its readers with an extensive look at the routines and habits of two different courts, and how their very contrasting values will help shape the morals and ideals of the last queen of France-reputed to be one of the most misunderstood royalties in history.

    Reading this novel felt easy, although at times I couldn't help feeling annoyed at whole French sentences suddenly springing out of nowhere. I understand they are supposed to help give sort of a genuine feel to the story, but they really have a way of throwing off non-French speaking readers like me. Aside from that, the narrative was fairly accessible, the narrator's plight wholly relatable, and the story interesting enough to warrant a sequel or two.

    After all, any story about Marie Antoinette never ends until the heads start rolling-for which I intend to know the real reasons why...

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  • Posted September 22, 2011

    Good historical fiction

    This was the first fictionalized book of Marie Antoinette I have read, and it's been many years since I learned anything about her in school, so I was fortunate to read and enjoy with a "blank slate" mind-set. So, I learned a lot. The troubles she had with her mother believing she wasn't good enough really touched me. I was astonished at the lengths they went to in order to make her a "suitable" bride for the French prince.

    While reading other reviews, I noticed that a lot of readers noticed how Marie would constantly refer to herself as not educated, yet speak with a highly educated tongue. This dichotomy can be over-looked; however, many words used in the book were either actually french, french-related, or referred to some obscure item/subject from that era. This makes a book hard to read if you don't know what those things are.

    Overall, it was an enjoyable book. A reader can learn a lot about the royal courts and Marie Antoinette's life before she was queen. The book is rather long and not a particularly fast read, but well worth it.

    *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher, Random House, through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review.

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    Highly Recommended.. This book is really awesome

    I have been interested in MA's life for a long time. I believe I have read everything ever written about her life. This book is so detailed and (although factual) fun and easy to read. I absoulutly can not wait for the next installment of Her Royal Highness's life and times. The author hit perfect. BTW.. I would not mine at all to preview your next installment.

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  • Posted August 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Became Marie Antoinette....if but for a time....

    Historical fiction. That is a genre of writing that I fell in love with when I started blogging. All kinds of historical fiction make their way to my shelves and Nook. So, it was without hesitation that I signed up to be a reviewer for this new novel by Juliet Grey. Both the novel, and the author are new to me, and I couldn't wait to crack the spine on this one. I was not disappointed in any way with this amazingly written, richly detailed, history filled novel.

    Juliet Grey did a fascinating job on this creation of this story. Maria Antonia, Austrian princess. What an amazing person. I absolutely loved each detail the Grey put into her. I could feel her emotions, and her struggles as she grew from Maria Antonia to Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. I can't imagine going through the things she, being married off at 14 years old, and dealing with French court while still a child. It amazes me to see how vivid Grey made the French court. I felt as if I, myself, was a member of Marie Antoinette's society and court. Wow!

    Not only did I love Maria Antonia and her transformation, I loved the setting of the story, I loved the fact that this is the first in a trilogy. It's a fantabulous start and one that will be forever on my bookshelf. It's a story that will keep you up late into the night, and turning the pages, wanting, NEEDING to know what young Marie was dealing with.

    I highly, highly recommend this with a high 5 Book Rating. You'll be instantly transported to another place in time, and you'll put on the amazingly detailed dresses of the era, and walk the courts along side this Queen. But, be warned: this is a book to be read when you have LOTS of free time, as you'll become completely lost in the writing of Ms. Grey. I can't wait until the second book in this trilogy releases!

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  • Posted August 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    Maria Antonia had a privileged upbringing as a member of the Austrian royal family. Her days were filled with the lessons and pastimes that any child of the time would enjoy. At the age of 10, she is betrothed to the future king of France, and so her transformation into a woman who is worthy to be Queen begins.

    It is refreshing to read a book so well researched that it gives you a completely different view of the person you are reading about. We all know Marie Antoinette as history largely presents her; a vapid, out of touch monarch who never knew anything outside of her own little world. This first book of a three book series takes you to her childhood and transforms your opinion of this infamous historical figure.

    From the beginning, you are drawn into the world of the Hapsburg court and into the political atmosphere of the day. This might seem like something that would overwhelm the story, but it sets the scenery against which Toinette's world is presented. What you find is that she wants nothing more than any other child; to be loved by her mother and her siblings. You quickly see that there is a heavy burden on her young shoulders.

    As she prepares to go to France, she is physically (think 18th century braces) and intellectually transformed for the sake of being "worthy" of the French monarchy. I felt nothing but sympathy for this girl, and she is a girl. A the age of fourteen I was worrying about what brand of jeans I was wearing. When Marie Antoinette was fourteen, she was getting married. To a stranger.

    The description of the two courts, the complicated social etiquette, the people and the dresses (I'm never complaining about spanx again) are completely enthralling. Although this is written as a work of fiction, every person and event was researched and so the two blend seamlessly. Although we all know how her story will end, I am looking forward to the next two books.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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