Abundance

( 70 )

Overview

Sena Jeter Naslund made flesh and blood a boldly original fictional character called "Ahab's wife". Now, she combines rigorous scholarship and blazing imagination to illuminate the life of Marie Antoinette, one of the most courageous—and misunderstood—queens in history.

"Like everyone, I am born naked."

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. Marie Antoinette was a ...

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Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette

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Overview

Sena Jeter Naslund made flesh and blood a boldly original fictional character called "Ahab's wife". Now, she combines rigorous scholarship and blazing imagination to illuminate the life of Marie Antoinette, one of the most courageous—and misunderstood—queens in history.

"Like everyone, I am born naked."

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. Marie Antoinette was a child of fourteen when her mother, the Empress of Austria, arranged for her to become the wife of the fifteen-year-old Dauphin, the future King of France. The young queen embraces her new family and the French people, and she is embraced in return. She shows her new husband nothing but love and encouragement, though he fails to give her a child and an heir to the throne.

Deeply disappointed and isolated, the queen allows herself to remain ignorant of the country's growing economic and political crises, and the people turn against her. Poor harvests, bitter winters, war debts, and poverty precipitate rebellion and revenge known as "the Terror."

Once again, Sena Jeter Naslund has shed new light on an important moment of historical change. Exquisitely detailed, beautifully written, heartbreaking and powerful, Abundance is a novel that is impossible to put down.

Performed by Susanna Burney

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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
Naslund broke on to the bestseller list in 1999 with Ahab's Wife, a spectacular novel spun from a single reference in Moby-Dick . Marie Antoinette would seem to offer Naslund the same rich material for historical reenactment and feminist revision, but it turns out there's a limit to how much you can defend a sweet, spoiled, sheltered woman—even an exquisitely dressed one. Naslund adds to this difficulty by using Marie to narrate this very long novel in the first person—a choice that leaves us trapped, literally and figuratively, in the Hall of Mirrors.

That's not to imply that there aren't pleasures to be found in Abundance. Au contraire: They're abundant. 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.
—The Washington Post

Liesl Schillinger
Fictionalizing a life that is already so surreal is usually a vain endeavor (Shakespeare is one of the few who regularly pulled it off); so it's best in reading Naslund's romance to think of it as a kind of Forever Amber punted across the channel from Restoration England to Versailles.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Appropriately, Burney begins her performance in the adorable upper registers of the 14-year-old Marie Antoinette, shipped to France by her mother, the Empress of Austria, to marry the 15-year-old Dauphin and peacefully conjoin France and Austria. Unfortunately, Burney continues in this insipid tone throughout her reading, which is understandable as Naslund (Ahab's Wife) portrays Marie as Little Mary Sunshine until the moment of her death by guillotine at age 38. Her love affair with a Swedish diplomat is strictly platonic and her inability to empathize with the French people is laid to her paternalistic advisers. All this may or may not be historically true, but it leaves listeners with Marie's diary-style descriptions of her personal and court life: the Dauphin's sexual limitations, the birth of her children, her clothes and hairstyles, girlish friendships and expensive banquets. The abridgment reinforces this focus by cutting little early on, then skipping quickly from one incident to another as the revolution evolves. Naslund's writing is clear and vivid, but offers little for those seeking a deeper understanding of the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Simultaneous release with the William Morrow hardcover (Reviews, May 29). (Oct.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Lush with description and deep with historical detail, Naslund's (Ahab's Wife) latest novel weaves the epic of Marie Antoinette in all her misunderstood glory. Beginning with the ceremony that transforms the Hapsburg archduchess into the dauphine, the story captures a young girl's becoming the product of her circumstances. From her struggles to be diplomatic with her new family and subjects, to her marriage left unconsummated for years, Marie recalls her life in intelligent and mature observations. And when the first tremors of the French Revolution are felt, we see her struggle with her wishes to keep her children and husband safe. Immersing us in the life of the French court at its most vulnerable and decadent time, Naslund's marvelous work is more detailed and has more depth than Carolly Erickson's The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, 6/15/06.]-Anna M. Nelson, Collier Cty. P.L., Naples, FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The French queen traditionally portrayed as a vain, heartless epicurean tells her own story in the industrious and versatile Kentucky author's fourth novel (Four Spirits, 2003, etc.). Scrupulously researched and vividly presented, it's the highborn beauty's account of her journey from Austria in 1770 (regretfully leaving her indulgent mother, Archduchess Maria Teresa), at age 14, to wed Louis Auguste, the 15-year-old Dauphin who, a few years hence, will ascend to the throne of France as Louis XVI. Determined to avoid "mistakes" in her unfamiliar surroundings and new role, Marie maintains correspondence with her mother, seeks friends and mentors among various ladies of the court and men of the world-and patiently endures prolonged virginity, as her husband, more interested in hunting than in his beautiful consort, waits years to consummate their marriage. Marie's ingenuous sweetness is charming, but Naslund perhaps tips the scales unduly in portraying her as a woman of pure benevolence who never foresees the march of world-changing events, as revolutions break out in America and elsewhere, and "bread riots" trouble the peace of Paris while she and Louis enjoy their coronation. Still, it's an irresistible story, and Naslund handles its big moments-indulgent spectacles at the palace of Versailles, the notorious Affair of the Diamond Necklace (in which Marie is falsely accused of adultery with a dissolute cardinal) and the beginning of the end as the royal family's flight to Varennes ends in their capture by Revolutionary forces-with impressive assurance. The last 125 pages pass with blinding speed-exactly as events must have been experienced by victims of "the Terror"-and the numerousforeshadowings sprinkled throughout the text are cruelly fulfilled. Naslund has done her homework, and imagined her complex, bewitching protagonist in persuasive depth and detail. The result is an exemplary historical novel.
Entertainment Weekly
“Enchanting...Opulent and fabulous, as encrusted with detail as one of Marie’s shimmering dresses...a complete page turner. Grade: A”
Washington Post
“Naslund recreates Marie so sympathetically that we can’t help aching for the queen.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“The novel is abundant, full of color and detail. . . . An engaging portrait of one of history’s bright-colored butterflies.”
USA Today
“Sumptuous...gripping...beautifully poignant. If you read one book about Marie Antoinette, let it be Sena Jeter Naslund’s.”
Birmingham News
“Naslund’s writing is rich with minute details that put the reader into the world of Versailles. A page-turner.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“With skillful dialogue Naslund re-creates a time and place fresh and fearsome.”
People
“Exceptional...A richly detailed portrait of an opulent, turbulent time. 4 stars.”
Booklist
“Readers of serious historical fiction will revel in it.”
Boston Globe
“ABUNDANCE is intelligent, beautifully written, and uncomfortably relevant, and Naslund makes her heroine convincing and even sympathetic.”
Daily News
“Opulent. . . . Recreates the glories of Versailles and the political malice that wafts through its many doorways.”
Seattle Times
“Intensive historical inquiry enables Naslund to re-create Marie Antoinette’s life with empathy and irresistibly piquant detail.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“Naslund mixes historical observation with delight and tension that makes it hard not to turn the page.”
Buffalo News
“An absorbing, detailed read.”
Columbus Dispatch
“The portrait that emerges is sympathetic but realistic...Absorbing.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“An enthralling work of fiction, one that captures the details of a family reign and a time period long gone.”
Raleigh News & Observer
“Both a realistic and romantic novel (with) immediately engaging characters...offers a rich, panoramic depiction of an age.”
Christian Science Monitor
“A wealth of period details...even the most cynical reader will wish for a last-minute pardon.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Fascinating...A richly detailed look at the doomed queen.”
Sunday Denver Post
“Naslund uses her words as if they were a camera to record life in late 18th century France.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Perceptive and literate.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Intimate experiences and thoughts run beautifully rampant through the pages...[a] smart delicious lesson in history.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061150913
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/3/2006
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 12 hours, 10 CDs
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Sena Jeter Naslund

Sena Jeter Naslund is the author of six novels and two short story collections. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, she is a winner of the Harper Lee Award, a Distinguished Teaching Professor and Writer-in-Residence at the University of Louisville, and the program director of the Spalding University brief-residency MFA in Writing.

Biography

Sena Jeter Naslund grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where she attended public schools and received a B.A. from Birmingham-Southern College. She has also lived in Louisiana, West Virginia, and California. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. In addition to two other novels and two collections of short stories, her short fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, the Michigan Quarterly Review and many others.

For 12 years she directed the Creative Writing Program at the University of Louisville, where she teaches and holds the title Distinguished Teaching Professor. Concurrently, she is a member of the M.F.A. in Writing faculty of Vermont College. She is cofounder and editor of the literary magazine The Louisville Review and the Fleur-de-lis Press, housed at Spaulding University, and has taught at the University of Montana and Indiana University. She is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Kentucky Arts Council. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.

Good To Know

Naslund is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Kentucky Arts Council.

She has taught literature since 1972, directing the creative writing program at University of Louisville, where she was awarded its first-ever Distinguished Teaching Professor honor.

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    1. Hometown:
      Louisville, Kentucky
    1. Education:
      B.A., Birmingham-Southern College; M.A., Ph.D. University of Iowa Writers' Workshop

Read an Excerpt

Abundance

A Novel of Marie Antoinette
By Sena Jeter Naslund

William Morrow

Copyright © 2006 Sena Jeter Naslund
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-06-082539-1


Chapter One

An Island in the Rhine River, May 1770

Like everyone, I am born naked.

I do not refer to my actual birth, mercifully hidden in the silk folds of memory, but to my birth as a citizen of France citoyenne, they would say. Having shed all my clothing, I stand in a room on an island in the middle of the Rhine River naked. My bare feet occupy for this moment a spot considered to be neutral between beloved Austria and France. The sky blue silk of my discarded skirt wreathes my ankles, and I fancy I am standing bare footed in a puddle of pretty water.

My chest is as flat as a shield, marked only by two pink rosebuds of nipples. I refuse to be afraid. In the months since I became fourteen, I've watched these pleasant rosebuds becomeing a bit plump and pinker. Now the fingers and hands of my attendants are stretching toward my neck to remove a smooth circlet of Austrian pearls.

I try to picture the French boy, whom I have never seen, extending large hands toward me, beckoning. What is he doing this very moment, deep in the heart of France? At fifteen, a year older than myself, he must be tall and strong. There must be other words than tall and strong to think of to describe him, to help me imagine and embody hisreality.

My mother, Empress of Austria, has told me how to anticipate the meeting of our bodies and all the events of my life to come; I am always in her prayers. Every month I will write to her and she to me, and our private letters will travel by our own couriers between France and Austria. When I try to picture my future husband, Louis Auguste, standing in the forests of France with hands and arms out stretched to me, I can only envision my most dear mother, dressed in black, sitting behind me like a dark wedge at her desk; she awaits the courier bearing a white rectangular packet, the envelope that represents me.

After I am married at Versailles, when Louis Auguste and I are alone in bed, certain events will follow. We will copulate through the door at the bottom of my body; next, I become pregnant. Nine months after my marriage I give birth to a baby. There will be many witnesses when my body, then age fifteen, opens to produce a future king. Years from then, after my husband has died, this baby will be the seventeenth Louis, King of France. This is what I know.

While my ladies flutter like bright butterflies around me, I glance at my naked body, a slender worm. Louis Auguste and I must be much the same, as all humans are really much the same, except for the difference of sex. We all have two legs mine are slender supporting a torso; two arms sprout on either side of a bodily cabinet, which contains the guts and bladder in the lower compartment and the heaving lungs and heart in the up per section. In between, for women, is the chamber called the womb. From the trunk, a neck rises up like a small lookout tower whose finial is the head.

Mine is a graceful body made strong by dancing and riding and of a milky porcelain color. Recently a few curly threads emerged from the triangle between my legs. Squeezing my thighs together, I try to shelter this delicate garden because my new hair seems frail and flimsy.

The French word for him, the prince who will become my husband and king, is Dauphin, and the French word for me, who will be his bride, is the same, but with a small letter e, curled like a snail in its flinty house, at the end of the word: Dauphine. I have many French words to learn.

My darling Austrian ladies sail around me in their bright silk dresses cerise, and emerald, deep blue with yellow stripes; their throats and sleeves bedecked with frothy, drooping lace. Like dancers, they bend and swoop to gather the garments I've shed; other ladies, standing patiently, hold my new French clothing folded across their forearms, cloth of gold and filmy lavender.

A flock of goose bumps sweeps over my bare flesh.

Antonia, the pretty mouths of my ladies breathe, Antonia. Their eyes glisten with unshed tears, for I am about to abandon my old name.

The stern French require that I step forward, naked, with no ribbon, memento, ruby, or brooch of Austrian de sign. To my ladies, I display my open palms so they may witness and affirm that I leave empty handed and am beholden in no way to my native Austria. Resplendent in rich colors, they draw near, in a solemn circle, to regard my vacant hands.

My nakedness complete, now I die as Maria Antonia, Archduchess of Austria, daughter of Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria.

To be her worthy daughter, I will that my chilled flesh unpucker itself and become all smooth and lovely. Clothed nobly in nothing but my own skin, described as pearly by some in its translucent sheen, I begin the donning of French clothes, no longer Maria Antonia but my French self, now named: Marie Antoinette.

I gasp my first damp breath of French air on this small island embraced by the arms of the rushing Rhine and re member the admonition of my mother: Do so much good to the French people that they can say that I have sent them an angel.

So said my mother, Empress of Austria, and I will love them, and they will love me, and I will love my husband, who is shy, they say, and the old King, Louis XV, who is not my future husband's father (that Dauphin having died without his ever having become king) but his grandfather; and I will love the maiden aunts of my future husband, Louis Auguste, who will become Louis XVI, God willing (but not soon, not soon I hope and pray, for in fact I know that not only my unformed body but also my spirit is still that of a child), and I will love the Ducde Choiseul, the great foreign minister of France, who has made my happiness come about by mating me with Louis Auguste, whom I have never seen yet and I will love the Count Mercy d'Argenteau, for he is Austrian Austrian! and my mother's friend and our no, not "our" but "the" Austrian ambassador to France. I will love them all, especially Choiseul the foreign minister and Mercy the Austrian ambassador, even as I have been instructed always to love those who further our cause the peace of Europe. And I will find new friends, my very own friends, to love as though they were sisters.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund Copyright © 2006 by Sena Jeter Naslund. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 70 )
Rating Distribution

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(37)

4 Star

(17)

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(8)

2 Star

(4)

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(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 58 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 10, 2011

    You start to adore Marie Antoinette

    The book is presented in first person by the last Queen of France herself. It goes from her becoming French to her execution. However, since it shows Marie Antoinette in such a positive light, I found myself wondering who she really was. Every one seems to know her as either this evil queen the led France into poverty or the girl misunderstood. If your looking for answers, this is not the book for you. If you just want to indulge in the life of royalty (the parties, not the execution) this is the book for you.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 7, 2011

    Great read

    Marie Antoinette is captivating. Naslund depicts her in true Hapsburg/Bourbon form, as an elegant, gracious , and often misunderstood soul

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent!!

    I'm the type of person who always finds something wrong with historical novels. Especially when it's on an event or historical figure that I love which is the case with Marie Antoinette. Ms. Naslund had a perfect understanding of Marie Antoinette and the events surrounding her life. After I finished the book I was completely in shock with myself that I loved every detail of this book. It's one that I could read over and again and enjoy it as much as I did reading it the first time.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2013

    Loved it

    Intriguing and fascinating. This book really helped me understand and feel for the queen

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 4, 2011

    Loved this book!

    Fantastic read...truly an insightful view into the life of the Queen. I couldn't put it down! So much attention to detail.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2012

    Nadia

    One of my favorite books ever.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2009

    A Real Page Turner!

    I wasn't expecting much when I purchased this book on sale. What a lovely surprise!! This book takes you in and you feel as though you are there sharing the moments. I am so glad I purchases this book and I would recommend it to all Marie Antoinette fans!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2008

    Good Book

    I was very happy with this book it was much better than the movie.It was very well written I recommend this book to Marie Antoinette fans you will be pleased.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2008

    A reviewer

    Abundance offers a richly embellished glimpse into the personal life, thoughts and actions of Marie Antoinette. Ms. Naslund's book is written in such a way as to resemble an intimate diary of the life of the queen who we think we know so much about. It is made all the more personal because we know how it will end. Thoroughly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    Interesting read.

    I liked the fact the book was writted in first person. It got a little too wordy with some of the descriptions. I wasn't fully aware of the goings on during this period in history, so found it educational as well as entertaining. A little long, but a good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2013

    Everyone should purchase this book and read it.

    This was a very good book and I highly recommend to people who enjoy books from the very early years of Europe.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2013

    Recommended

    If you like historical fiction with many facts woven in, you will like Abundance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2013

    very enjoyable

    I like history with a little fiction added and like the way this book was done. Great summer reading.

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  • Posted January 25, 2010

    Excellent historical fiction

    An excellent read if you like historical fiction. Any of the books by this author are wonderful. You can't go wrong. This is a keeper.

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  • Posted June 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing

    Coming from a Marie Antoinette lover this book was great. The events are real and the letters are real but the author writes it as if she was Marie Antoinette which gives you great insight as to what it may feel like to have been Marie Antoinette. The emotion in the book feels real and you will find yourself in Marie Antoinette. Follow the book with a biography and the movie and your experience with this monumental queen will be the best.

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  • Posted December 26, 2008

    You feel as if you were actually her friend

    She talks to you as if she would talk to you in real life ! verry dramatic,romantic,THRILLING ! But i felt there should be more at the end when she dies but its good enough !

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    loved it

    This is by far one of the best books I have read in the recent years. I don't have much time to read but when I do it is lovely to find a book as great as this one. I love the way Marie Antoinette is portrayed considering you usually only hear the negative. This offered another side to the Queen which was refreshing. I am a big fan of historical fiction so if you love this genre you will love this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    Marie Antoinette as never described, beautifully written, engaging. I love historical fiction and this is not to be missed.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    HISTORICAL FICTION AT ITS FINEST

    Few historical figures continue to fascinate as does Marie Antoinette. Saint or sinner? Avaricious queen or unwitting martyr? It all depends upon which account you're reading. From the varying opinions, we can assume that she is still very much a mystery, an intriguing one. With prodigious research and imaginative text acclaimed novelist Sena Jeter Naslund (Ahab's Wife) offers an original approach to the life of the ill-fated queen. She does this by allowing Marie Antoinette to speak, thus revealing her impressions, thoughts, and actions in her own words. From the opening line, 'Like everyone, I was born naked' to a closing comment, ''I have lived the life dealt to me with as much kindness as I could,' Abundance, as performed by Susanna Burney, is riveting listening. Burney effectively captures the voice of the naive 14-year-old Toinette when her marriage to the 15-year-old Daupin, France's future king, is arranged by her mother, the Empress of Austria. The actress is equally efective in expressing wonder as Toinette first explores the riches of Versailles, and finally courage when her son is turned against her and she faces the guillotine. Known for meticulous attention to detail, author Naslund presents a vivid picture of the extravagances of life at court as well as the machinations of various officials who would use Toinette to better themselves. She was blissfully unaware of the dire straits her new country was in, whether due to naivete or deliberate oversight we do not know. However, listeners will find a sympathetic portrait of a young queen who suffered the indignity of her husband's neglect, the false friendships of many, and the horror of seeing her friend's decapitated head on a pike accompanied by angry chants of 'Kiss the lips you've kissed before.' Abundance is historical fiction at its finest - enjoy! - Gail Cooke

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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