Becoming Marie Antoinette

Becoming Marie Antoinette

by Juliet Grey

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345523860
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/09/2011
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 385,729
Product dimensions: 7.72(w) x 5.28(h) x 1.04(d)

About the Author

Juliet Grey is the author of Becoming Marie Antoinette and Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow. She has extensively researched European royalty and is a particular devotee of Marie Antoinette, as well as a classically trained professional actress with numerous portrayals of virgins, vixens, and villainesses to her credit. She and her husband divide their time between New York City and Washington, D.C.

Read an Excerpt

One

Is This the End of Childhood?

Schonbrunn, May 1766

My mother liked to boast that her numerous daughters were "sacrifices to politics." I never dared admit to Maman, who was Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, that the phrase terrified me more than she could know. Every time she said it, my imagination painted a violent tableau of Abraham and Isaac.

Unflinchingly pragmatic, Maman prepared us to accept our destinies not only with grace and equanimity but with a minimal amount of fuss. Thus, I had been schooled to expect, as sure as summer follows spring, that one day my carefree life as the youngest archduchess of Austria would forever change. What I never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.

In the company of my beloved sister, Charlotte, I was enjoying an idyllic afternoon on the verdant hillside above the palace of Schonbrunn, indulging in one of our favorite pastimes--avoiding our lessons by distracting our governess, the Countess von Brandeiss.

A bumblebee hummed lazily about our heads, mistaking our pomaded and powdered hair for dulcet blossoms. Charlotte had kicked off her blue brocaded slippers and was wiggling her stockinged feet in the freshly cut grass. So I did the same, delighting in the coolness of the lawn, slightly damp against the soles of my feet, although we'd surely merit a scolding for staining our white hose. Affecting a grim expression and pressing my chin to my chest until I achieved our mother's jowly appearance, in a dreadfully stern voice I said, "At your age, Charlott-ah, you should know better than to lead the little one into childish games."

My sister laughed. "Mein Gott, you sound just like her!"

Countess von Brandeiss suppressed a smile, hiding her little yellow teeth. "And you should know better than to mock your mother, Madame Antonia.

"Ouf!" Startled by the bee, which now appeared to be inspecting with some curiosity the ruffles of her bonnet, our governess began to bat the air about her head. Nearly tripping over her voluminous skirts as she leapt to her feet in fright, Madame von Brandeiss began to hop about in such a comical fashion that it was impossible for us to feel even the slightest bit chastised.

Maman's scoldings were so easy to duplicate because they came with far more regularity than her compliments. From middle spring through the warm, waning days of September, she was a familiar presence in our lives, tending to affairs of state from the outskirts of Vienna in our summer palace of Schonbrunn, a grand edifice of ocher and white that resembled a giant tea loaf piped with Schlag, whipped cream. With scrubbed faces we were presented to her in the Breakfast Room, its walls, the color of fresh milk, partitioned into symmetrical panels by gilded moldings and scrollwork. Charlotte, Ferdinand, Maxl, and I looked forward to the day when we would be old enough to merit an invitation to join her, along with our older siblings, for a steaming pot of fragrant coffee and terribly adult conversation about places like Poland and Silesia, places I remained unable to locate on the map of Europe that hung on the wall of our schoolroom.

For the remainder of the year, when the prodigious Hapsburg family resided at the gray and labyrinthine Hofburg palace in the heart of Vienna, we, the youngest of the empress's brood, scarcely saw Maman more than once every ten days. We even attended daily Mass without her, a line of ducklings, dressed in our finest clothes, kneeling on velvet cushions that bore our initials embroidered in silver thread. Charlotte and I remained side by side as our pastel-colored skirts, widened by the basketlike panniers beneath them, nudged each other; our heads swam with the pungent aroma of incense while our ears rang with ritual--the resonance of the grand pipe organ and the bishop's solemn intonations in Latin.

And as the days grew shorter we began to forget the woman who had almost dared to have fun during those departed sunlit months. Mother became matriarch: a forbidding figure clad all in black, her skirts making her appear nearly as wide as she was tall. Marched into her study for inspection, we would stand still as statues--no fidgeting allowed--while she peered at us through a gilt-edged magnifying glass and inquired of our governess whether we were learning our lessons, eating healthy meals, using tooth powder, and scrubbing our necks and behind our ears. The royal physician, Dr. Wansvietten, was put through the same paces with questions about our general health. The answers were invariably in the affirmative, since no one would dare to admit any act of negligence or weakness, and so she dismissed us from her presence, satisfied that we were dutiful children.

I slid across the grass on my bottom, nestling beside our governess, adjusting my body so that I could whisper in her ear, "May I tell you a secret, Madame?"

"Of course, Liebchen." Madame von Brandeiss smiled indulgently.

"Sometimes . . . sometimes I wish you were my mother." The pomade in her hair, scented to disguise its origin as animal fat, smelled of lavender. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. The fragrance was so pleasant, it nearly made me sleepy.

"Why, Madame Antonia!" The countess managed to appear both touched and alarmed, her cheeks coloring prettily as her gray eyes stole a reflexive glance to see who might be listening. "How can you say such a thing, little one--especially when your maman is the empress of Austria!"

Madame von Brandeiss tenderly stroked my hair. I could not remember whether my mother had ever done so, nor could I summon the memory of any similar display of warmth or affection. It was enough to convince me that they had never taken place. I felt my governess's lips press against the top of my head. Somehow she knew, without my breathing a word, that the empress's demeanor rather frightened me. "I'm sure your maman loves you, little one," she murmured. "But you must remember, it is the duty of a sovereign to attend to great and serious affairs of state, while it is a governess's responsibility to look after the children."

I wriggled a bit. My leg had become entangled in my underskirts and had fallen asleep. "Are you ever sorry you didn't have any of your own?" I asked the countess. Inside my white stockings I wiggled my toes until the tingling was gone.

"Antonia, you're being impertinent!" Charlotte said reproachfully. "What did Maman tell you about blurting out whatever comes into your head?" I loved and admired my next oldest sister more than anyone in the world, but she had the makings of quite a little autocrat--Maman in miniature in many ways. Already her adolescent features had begun to resemble our mother, especially about the mouth.

Ignoring my sister, I tilted my chin and gazed earnestly into our governess's eyes. "If you could have, would you have had sixteen children, like Maman?" There were only thirteen of us now, owing to the ravages of smallpox. I'd contracted the disease when I was only two years old and by the grace of God recovered fully. Only a tiny scar by the side of my nose remained as a reminder of what I had survived. When I grew older I would be permitted to hide it with powder and paint, or perhaps even a patch, although Maman thought that women who covered their pox scars with mouches had no morals. "If you had a little girl, Madame, what would you want her to be like?"

Countess von Brandeiss swallowed hard and fingered the engraved locket about her neck. She was perhaps nearly as old as Maman; the brown hair that peeked out from beneath her straw bonnet and white linen cap was threaded with a few strands of silver. She tenderly kissed the top of my head. "If I had had a little girl, I would have wanted her to be just like you. With strawberry blond curls and enormous dark blue eyes, and a generous heart as big as the Austrian Empire." Tugging me toward her, she readjusted the gray woolen band that smoothed my unruly tendrils off my forehead. It wasn't terribly pretty but it served its turn, and was ordinarily masked by my hair ribbon. But that afternoon I had removed the length of rose-colored silk and used it to tie a bouquet I plucked from the parterres--tulips and pinks and puffy white snapdragons.

"Yes, Liebchen," sighed my governess, "she would be exactly like you, except in one respect." I looked at her inquiringly. "If I had had a little girl, she would be more attentive to her lessons!" Madame von Brandeiss gently clasped my wrists and disengaged my arms from her neck. Her eyes twinkled. "She would not be clever enough to invent so many distractions, and she would pay more attention to her studies. And, she would not ask so many"--she glanced at Charlotte, who was feigning interest in splitting a blade of grass with her pale, slender fingers--"impertinent questions.

"Now," she said, urging me off her lap and onto the lawn. "Enough games. Like it or not, ma petite, it is time for your French grammar lesson. You too, Charlotte." The countess clapped her hands with brisk efficiency. "Allons, mes enfants."

In the blink of an eye, a liveried footman handed Charlotte our copybooks.

Before I could stop myself, I pursed my lips into a petulant little moue. Our governess stuck out her lower lip, playfully mocking my expression. "You mustn't pout, Antonia. It was you, little madame, who convinced me to move your lessons out of doors today."

Rolling onto my belly and propping myself on my elbows, I lifted my face to the breeze and filled my nostrils with the scents of summer. The boning in my bodice pressed against my midriff and my skirts belled out above my rump like a pink soufflé. "But I'm not pouting, Madame. It's how God made me," I said brightly. In truth, what Maman calls "the Hapsburg lower lip" gives the impression of a permanent pout, even when I'm not sulking. Our entire family looks the same way; with fair hair, a pale complexion, and a distinctly receding chin, I resembled every one of my siblings and ancestors.

And yet, if I'd had a glass I would have appraised my appearance. Was I pretty? Maman thought I was a perfect porcelain doll, but I'd overheard whispers among the servants . . . something about the way I carried my head. Or perhaps it was my physiognomy. Then again, I was a Hapsburg archduchess. I had every reason to delight in my lineage. Still--I wanted everyone to love me. If there were a way to please them, I wished to learn it. "Do you think my chin makes me look haughty?" I asked Madame von Brandeiss.

"People who have nothing better to do will indulge in idle gossip," our governess replied. Charlotte placed her hand over her mouth to hide a smile. "Your chin makes you look proud. And you have every reason to be proud because you are a daughter of Austria and your family has a long and illustrious history. And," Madame von Brandeiss continued, beginning to laugh, "you are doing it again."

"Doing what?" I asked innocently.

"Doing everything you can think of to avoid your books. Don't think you can fool me, little madame."

She clapped her hands again. "Come now, you minxes, you've dawdled enough. Vite, vite! It's time for your French lesson." She shook Charlotte gently by the shoulder.

Charlotte rolled onto her back and sat up; she was diligent by nature, but if I began to dally, she could become as indolent as I when it came to our schoolwork. Our moods affected each other as if we had been born twins. Her grumble became a delighted squeal as something caught our eyes at exactly the same moment. "Toinette, look! A butterfly!" My sister shut her copybook with a resonant snap. Joining hands, we pulled each other to our feet and began to give chase. Without breaking her stride Charlotte swept up her net from where it lay in the soft grass with a single graceful motion.

"Ach! Nein! Girls, your shoes!" Madame von Brandeiss exclaimed, rising and smoothing her skirts. Her boned corset prevented her from bending with ease; she knelt as if to curtsy and scooped up one of my backless ivory satin slippers.

"No time!" I shouted, clutching fistfuls of watered silk as I hitched up my skirts and raced past Charlotte. The butterfly became a blur of vivid blue as it flitted in an irregular serpentine across the manicured hillside, its delicate form silhouetted against the cerulean sky. It finally settled on a hedge at the perimeter of the slope. Charlotte and I had nearly run out of wind; our chests heaved with exertion, straining against the stiff boning of our stomachers. My sister began to lower her net. I raised my hand to stay her. "No," I insisted, panting. "You'll scare her off."

I held my breath. Gingerly reaching toward the foliage, I cupped my hands over our exquisite quarry. The butterfly's iridescent wings fluttered energetically, tickling my palms. "Let's show Madame," I whispered.

With Charlotte a pace or two behind me, limping a bit because she'd put her foot wrong on an unseen twig, I cautiously tiptoed back across the lawn, fearful of tripping and losing the delicate treasure cocooned within my hands. The rapid trembling of the butterfly's wings gradually slowed until there was only an occasional beat against my palms.

Finally, we reached the countess. "Look what I've got!" I crowed, slowly uncurling my fingers. The three of us peered at the motionless insect. Charlotte's face turned grave.

Catching the troubled expression in her pale blue eyes, "Maybe she's sleeping," I said softly, hopefully, stroking one of the fragile wings with my index finger. My hands were smudged with yellow dust.

"She's not sleeping, Toinette. She's . . ." Charlotte's words trailed off as she looked at me, her usually flushed cheeks now ashen with awareness.

My lips quivered, but the sobs became strangled in my throat. Drawing me to her, Charlotte endeavored to still the heaving in my shoulders, but I shrugged her off. I didn't deserve to be comforted. An enormous tear rolled down my cheek and landed on my chest, marring the silk with an irregular stain. Another warm tear plopped onto my wrist. I closed my hands again as if to shelter the butterfly in the sepulcher made by my palms, while the full weight of my crime settled on my narrow shoulders.

"I. Didn't. Mean. To. Kill. Her. I've. Never. Killed. Anything. I. Would. Never. Hurt . . ." My sobs finally came in big loud gulps, bursts of hysterical sound punctuated by apologies. With a look of sheer helplessness I threw myself into my governess's open arms.

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Becoming Marie Antoinette 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable and easy to read. If yiu enjoy Philippa Gregory, you will like this
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
epicrat More than 1 year ago
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.
goode2shews_74 More than 1 year ago
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.
JaneSteen on LibraryThing 25 days ago
This was one of those novels where I began the book with doubts and ended it as a fan. That's always a pleasant experience, and I was glad to find out that this was the first book in a series.I thought that at the outset, Becoming Marie Antoinette is a little heavy on the historical detail. I felt a little as if I were reading a history book dressed up as a novel, but not enough that I wanted to stop reading. Marie Antoinette is an interesting historical figure, and I was fascinated by the details of her childhood in Austria and particularly by her relationship with her mother.By the time Marie Antoinette arrives in France, I felt that the author was warming up--not to her subject, because her passion for the historical period is evident from the start--but to the rhythm of writing a historical novel. The story begins to take over from the details, and once the author hits that stride the narrative begins to flow very nicely.The relationship between Marie Antoinette and the Dauphin is very nicely handled, and perfectly believable. Grey's imagining of two characters who had to grow into adulthood in the hothouse atmosphere of the French court and find a way to make their own relationship work, spurred on by the notions of duty that had been impressed on them since childhood, was convincing.All in all, a very satisfying novel, and I'm looking forward to the next installment.
mjmbecky on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Marie Antoinette and Versailles are two things that people continue to be intrigued about. How would it be to be that wealthy and to have that much recognition? What was she really like and what must Versailles have been like in its day? In Juliet Grey's novel, we get a bit of an idea in this piece of historical fiction. Much of the novel surrounds Marie Antoinette's childhood and teen years, wherein she was groomed and prepared for an eventual marriage to Louis XVI of France. Although Austrian, Marie was forced to change things about herself to become more of what her French husband might like. There is an especially traumatic scene with a doctor/dentist, where she is given a pretty barbaric set of braces to change her teeth. Having had braces as a teenager, I couldn't even fathom the pain she went through--without numbing medication--to get those braces. Excruciating is all I have to say about that scene!Throughout the novel we are privy to Marie's preparations and emotional upheaval about her own future. It had to be frightening to need to model yourself so much after the desires of someone you didn't even know, not to mention the fear that must have come from knowing you would be giving up your entire world for another. However, Marie does just that and moves into her marriage with Louis XVI, which becomes an even newer and different trial of loneliness and confusion. The book paints a blossoming friendship between Marie and Louis, as they had little by way of passion or desire in their marriage. It does seem pretty weird that the two didn't have a physical relationship for so long. Historians have come up with a few medical reasons why Louis XVI might not have been able to consummate the marriage, but no one knows for sure, because it obviously did eventually happen. Much of the final section of the book surrounds Marie's frustration and confusion over her lack of a sexual relationship with her husband. Had it not really been based in history, I would have also found it all a bit exhausting to keep dwelling on it, but I think I would be pretty confused if I had to wait years to finally have a real marriage. As mentioned above, there are some really interesting scenes that jumped out at me and had me look at Marie Antoinette's story in a different way. I've always thought it must be lonely and somehow difficult to be a monarch--as strange as that sounds--but never in quite the way I did after reading Grey's novel. There is a lot of detail to the novel, and a lot of back story of her childhood that are pretty interesting to consider. In a sense, the novel helped to humanize Marie Antoinette for me as she maybe had not been before. Overall, I enjoyed the novel, and with the open ending of this first book, I'm eager to see Marie grow into a woman and to see her story find some resolution. I'll definitely be reaching for the next book when it comes out in May!
theepicrat on LibraryThing 25 days ago
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.
sds6565 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Excellent read, lots of the life and times of court life.
justabookreader on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Marie Antoinette has long been a favorite character of mine in historical fiction. The French court, the elaborate pomp and circumstance, and then there is the setting --- Versailles. In Becoming Marie Antoinette, Grey takes us past the court window dressings introducing us to a young girl struggling to fit in and be someone much more French than her Austrian roots allow.The Austrian court is a quiet refuge for a young Marie Antonia, the youngest daughter of the empress. She has a lot of freedom and never having been much of a scholar, she does her best to avoid every lesson possible. When she¿s told she will be marrying the Dauphin of France, Louis Auguste, she spends her days dreaming of marriage and children. However, she fails to understand her future marriage is more than a simple arrangement; it will be the culmination of a treaty between the Austrian empress and the French king. Her days spent dreaming in the garden are over. Her mother, knowing she needs to impress not only the French ambassador but eventually the French king, his court, and the country¿s people, Marie Antonia¿s education begins again with a decided slant towards making her not just appear French but to be French.Understanding for the first time the gravity of her marriage, Marie Antonia takes everything seriously from learning to endure French hair and clothing to performing the Versailles glide --- a way of walking through the halls of the palace --- perfectly. When her wedding plans are finally announced, the young daydreamer has been transformed into a young woman who may not entirely understand her new role, but is willing to try. Anxious to finally meet her husband, she does her best to make a good impression on everyone she meets during her journey. When she finally arrives, more changes await her, the least of which is being stripped of everything Austrian to be replaced completely with French versions including her name. She submits; Marie Antonia becomes Marie Antoinette.Determined to be nothing if not loved, Marie Antoinette makes it her duty to impress: her husband, the king, and the court. Unfortunately, not everyone finds her alluring and especially not her new husband. A quiet man of few words, she can¿t figure out how to get through to him and the rumors of a virginal marriage bed begin to haunt her. With no place to find solace in a court constantly full of gossipy, curious courtiers, she attempts to understand the man who is her husband.What¿s so interesting about this particular story is that we meet a young Marie Antoinette who has no head for academics but is able to make just about everyone love her. She¿s fun and while she knows her freedom won¿t last, she¿s resigned to making the best of it. While the Marie Antoinette we meet isn¿t the refined and glamorous woman of most historical fiction, she¿s certainly a lovable character and most of that is due to her age. She¿s young, incredibly young even for her age. And while you may know what¿s coming her way, she seems blissful at least to a certain point. It¿s when she comes to understand the difficulties that lay ahead for her, you begin to not only like her but feel for her. A foreign archduchess, she¿s not looked upon kindly and realizes fast there are few she can trust in her new home.The relationship with Louis has its poignant moments and frankly some embarrassing ones as well. But you also see two young adults attempting to figure out what¿s expected of them and how they plan to live up to those expectations. Finding they love each other along the way lends sweetness to a story that can easily be trounced on by an overbearing French court. There are a few places in the story when I did wish for less information as Grey has obviously done her research but overall those moments don¿t cause harm. In many ways this is a coming of age story, but it¿s also full of some interesting characters you don¿t want to let go of even at the end which is good because Becoming Marie Antoinette
Judith_Starkston on LibraryThing 25 days ago
This first of three projected novels about Marie Antoinette is getting a good deal of buzz among readers and reviewers of historical fiction for its detailed portrayal of the period and its in-depth characterization of the future French Queen. In interviews Juliet Grey has pointed out that with this series she is interested in redeeming a much maligned historical figure, who, while usually portrayed as ¿heedless to headless¿ was, in fact, a much more sympathetic character. As Grey points out, the history of Marie Antoinette was written by her enemies, the victors of the French Revolution. Now there¿s a new version, and it¿s worth reading.Grey begins with the ten-year-old Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria on the day her mother, the Empress of Austria, began negotiations for the marriage of her youngest daughter to the Dauphin of France. She opens with a charming scene outdoors between ¿Toinette¿ (her family nickname), Charlotte (her favorite sister) and their governess, who is attempting to teach them French, but the girls are more interested in chasing butterflies and painting their governess¿s face with their watercolors when she falls asleep in the sun. The scene has the difficult job of connecting us to a child enough so that we care about what happens to her and will read on. In this, Grey succeeds. She makes an excellent beginning in her opening sentence, ¿My mother liked to boast that her numerous daughters were `sacrices to politics.¿¿ Other chilling details about the girls¿ future roles and their mother¿s demanding and distant treatment of them create a sharp contrast to the two mischievous girls whom we get to know quite intimately. They seem ordinary in their desire to distract their teacher and in the carefree way they get mud and grass stains on their silk gowns. That Toinette is clearly terrible at her lessons and can¿t learn much of anything is another detail that hooks us in. How on earth is this little girl going to become a queen? Grey succeeds both in making us like this child and in causing us to worry about her. Marie Antointette¿s journey to the French throne turns out to be complicated and full of pitfalls. While this is a work of fiction, Grey has based her characterization in history while allowing herself the liberty to imagine what went on both behind closed doors and within the minds of her characters. She has written nonfiction about this period and queen, and listening to her discuss her research, I¿m willing to trust that she¿s constructed a legitimate ¿read¿ of this famous woman, although I¿m sure the debate will continue in scholarly and historical fiction circles. Certainly Grey¿s version of Marie Antoinette is engaging. For me the strength of this book lies in Marie Antoinette¿s richly developed inner world¿how hard she tried to fulfill her mother¿s demands, how vulnerable and unprepared she was for the gossipy, infighting French court, how much she yearned to be loved but mostly wasn¿t, the bizarre but sweet relationship she shared eventually with her husband. For many people the elaborate detail about clothing, hairstyles, etiquette and court customs will be among the most delightful aspects. I have to confess that sometimes I got bogged down in the repeated dressing and hair-do scenes. Part of the point of them was to show that the young woman herself found them too much, so they served a purpose within the novel, but I sometimes wished for more plot less fashion. Marie Antoinette¿s training in the Austrian court to prepare her to be an acceptable bride for the Dauphin was particularly detailed: dance steps, parlor games, walking styles, even, most astonishingly to me, braces made of gold to straighten her teeth. The reader does feel for this poor girl whose every moment seems calculated to point out her deficiencies and improve them. We are left with a vivid portrayal of a young woman who had no control over the path her life took, having been the pawn of her mother and many French and
ReviewsbyMolly on LibraryThing 25 days ago
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!
BrokenTeepee on LibraryThing 25 days ago
So many "facts" have come down through history about Marie Antoinette. But as her life is researched by contemporary authors much of what is known about her has been proven to be false. This first book of a trilogy starts with a young Austrian archduchess, before she became Marie Antoinette. It tells the tale of all the political machinations that went on to secure an alliance between France and Austria through the marriage of two young people - regardless of their feelings.But don't think that for one minute that this is a dry, boring book because it is not! It starts with a young, carefree girl and shows how her mother and the ambassador from France molded her into what they felt would be an appropriate dauphine of France. It was not an easy process for Maria Antonia was not one for lessons - she was quick witted but not interested in the history of her new country. She was pretty but a late bloomer into womanhood. They even put braces on her teeth - and that description about turned my stomach!What this poor child went through in the name of politics is just appalling. But makes for a fascinating story. Ms. Grey writes with a passion for her subject and with a love for a child who was basically thrown to the wolves. The French thought she was not good enough for their dauphin and he did not want to be married at all. She was 14 when she left all she knew to go marry a man she had never met. She was not even allowed to keep her pet dog!I found myself immersed in the life of this young girl; I could hardly put the book down. Ms. Grey's style is one that draws you into time and place and even though I knew what was going to happen I was still turning the pages as if I didn't. THAT is good writing. I can't wait for the next installment. I hope I am honored with a review copy.Oh, and isn't that cover to die for?
BookAddictDiary on LibraryThing 25 days ago
This isn't the Marie Antoinette you thought you knew. In this fresh take on the French monarch, she's perhaps the farthest thing from the lavish, pampered and selfish monarch who infamously told the French peasants to "eat cake." This time around, author Juliet Grey explores the development of a young Marie Antoinette as she grows up in the Hapsburg court and is transformed from Maria Antonia, youngest daughter of Maria Theresa, into Marie Antoinette, dauphine of France.At the age of 10, Maria Antonia hears rumors about visits from French ambassadors with her mother. Even at the tender age, Maria is paraded in front of the ambassador like a piece of meat for trade. After this, years of careful marriage negotiations ensue, where virtually everything about Maria is changed to accommodate the whims of the French. Once Marie is finally married to the French dauphin, Louis, and finds that the French Court is much more treacherous than she could ever possibly imagine.Becoming Marie Antoinette is a fabulously-written and fascinating new take on the monarch from debut author Juliet Grey. Not only is the period portrayed with exquisite period detail and painfully trust depictions of what life was probably like for poor Marie Antoinette, forced into an unhappy marriage with a man who knows little about his duties after being changed into someone else for the political gains of her family.Most importantly, Grey gives readers the opportunity to dive into the mind of Marie Antoinette and see what exists behind the history. Marie Antoinette is painted as a genuine young woman who knows the importance of duty and honor, but still longs for a life she enjoys and a passionate marriage with someone she loves. As a woman with morals and intelligence who it comes to court intrigue and politics, Marie Antoinette seems to be more a victim of her times than an over-indulged tyrant.The first book in a compelling new trilogy, Becoming Marie Antoinette is one of the most vivid and compelling historical fiction out there on the monarch that readers will devour -I even devoured this book in just one sitting. Highly recommended and I can't wait for the sequel.
lizgatrgrl on LibraryThing 25 days ago
I received this book as part of the first reads giveaway and was so happy when I got it because I am a sucker for historical fiction. This book is the first in a three book series and begins when Marie Antoinette is a young girl and not yet promised to the French throne. The book gives a detailed account of the steps Marie Antoinette would have taken to ready herself for her marriage to the future king of France. I got lost in the story and looked forward to picking it up every chance I got. It was an easy read and I am so excited for the second book because it really did leave me wanting more.
wagner.sarah35 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
*I received this book through GoodReads First Reads Giveaway*In this historical novel, Juliet Grey tells the tale of Marie Antoinette's early life from her childhood in Vienna through her years as the young dauphine of France. While most of the story was familiar, the earlier years of Marie Antoinette's life are rarely described in detail and here the author shows Marie Antoinette receiving numerous cosmetic treatments to make her more desirable as a royal bride. From the eighteenth-century braces to the extravagant hairstyles, it's hard not to feel some sympathy for the young Marie Antoinette as she prepared for her role as Queen of France. While not the best work I've read on her, Juliet Grey's novel does offer an engaging picture of the tragic queen's early years.
Carolee888 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
My rating should actually be 4.5 stars, I enjoyed it so much but there was one small area that I wished had more emphasis. `Becoming Marie Antoinette' is the first book of a trilogy. I have decided to read the whole set because of the tremendous amount of research and uncovering the truth that the author, Juliet Grey has put into it. The writing is clear, never bogs down or gets boring. This first book covers the time that Marie Antoinette was a child of eleven to when her father-law, "Papa Roi" or Louise XV died. For those, who love to learn about the fashion of the royalty, this book is rich in detail about the panniers and uncomfortable corsets and gorgeous materials of the gowns and sparkling beauty of the gems. Austria was so ahead of France, fashion wise. Now, I am interested in finding the answer to why that was so. For those, who love to learn the truth behind the myths that grew about Marie Antoinette, Juliet Grey does an excellent job of straightening out false history. She writes very sympathetic portraits of young Marie Antoinette and the successor to Louis XV. At one point of the book, I was so wrapped in Marie Antoinette's situation that I wanted to grab her out of the book and drag her to our time period! I felt so bad about her destiny. My mother instincts wanted me to rescue her from all the mistreatment she was receiving and the impossible demands. I wanted let her play with her little pug, Mog and be the child that she could have been. But there is no way to change what she went through so I had to sit back and watch her life move forward. I also wanted her future husband to have a better life. The only thing that I craved for was more emphasis on Madame Du Barry, Louis XV's notorious mistress. The description of her actions made me interested in knowing more. I wanted more. I am now planning to read a book about Louis XV's mistresses. The portrait of Marie Antoinette is very compelling and makes me hungry for the next book of the trilogy, 'Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow. It should be out in the summer of 2012. I recommend this book to all historical fiction fans.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
The whole time I was reading this book, starting when she was a young girl in Austria, with all she went through just to become worthy, physically and mentally, to be worthy to become marriagable to France, I kept thinking how bad this all turns out. Even the end of the book, which ends on an optimistic note, not the end of their lives, made me realize how little understood and how very overwhelmed she was. Liked this book quite a bit, it was interesting and very readable.
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Summary: Everyone knows who Marie Antoinette was, but how many people know the story of how she became one of the pivotal figures of the French Revolution? Born an princess to the Hapsburg Empress of Austria, she was a happy, free-spirited child. When her mother began negotiations with France for her marriage to the dauphin, however, the 12-year-old Antonia had to put her childhood behind her and start proving herself worthy of being the future Queen of France - a process that involved arduous hours of fixing her teeth and hair, learning a new language and how to walk in her new clothes, and mastering the manners and pastimes of a new court. And even once that preparation was complete and the marriage was accomplished, she was still a very young girl in a foreign land, facing hostility and manipulation from all sides... with a husband, the future king, who mysteriously refused to consummate their marriage, despite its vital importance to both their countries that she bear him a son.Review: While, in a lot of respects, this book is very solid and enjoyable historical fiction, it didn't quite live up to my expectations of it. On the good side, it's well-written, and Grey does an excellent job of bringing Marie Antoinette to life as a real and - if not quite relatable - certainly sympathetic narrator, instead of a mere caricature of a fancy dress and enormous hairdo. I also learned quite a bit about her childhood, much of it totally fascinating (although: man, 1760s orthodontia, no thank you!), and really got a good feel for how she fit into the Versailles court (or didn't, as the case may be.) My main problem was the limited time span covered by the book, and consequently how abruptly it ended. This book is the first of three planned biographical novels, and while the death of Louis XV seems like a natural break in the storyline - marking Marie's transition from dauphine to Queen - it left a lot of plot threads unresolved, most noticeably the cause and and outcome of Marie's continuing virginal status, which was a major theme in the back half of the book. The ending left me wanting more, not in the sense of being eager to dive into the sequel, but in the sense that I felt like a more complete story could have been packed into the preceding 400 pages. 3.5 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: I think fans of novels about the French Revolution - and of historical fiction more generally - will enjoy this one, as long as they bear in mind that it's not the whole story.
BookPurring on LibraryThing 25 days ago
I had many, many issues with this book. From the beginning I struggled with it. The cover just looks, and I don't know how to say this kindly, but so fake and the costume is very unimpressive that I wasn't sure to request it or not. My love for historical fiction won, plus I love reading about the French Revolution, and as a consequence, I love reading about Marie Antoinette too. I didn't like the writing style, it seemed like the author would throw the biggest words she knew in the book in order to compensate for the lack of era appropriate dialogue. I could tell the author liked Marie Antoinette, and the book seems to have an agenda to make you like Marie Antoinette. The problem is that after a while, and so many attempts by the author, the whole "see it wasn't her, it was really how the French court was, she was just trying to please everyone" agenda got boring, and backfires by making the reader dislike the protagonist anyway.
tillien on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Let me start with one word for this book.Wow.Seriously, wow.I really loved this book. This was the first in a new series by Juliet Grey and I have to tell you I am anxiously waiting for the release of the second. The book covered Marie Antoinette's life up until her husband advocated the throne.The first half (or more) of the book was Marie's journey to becoming a queen. Braces, etiquette lessons, French lessons, learning who she can and cannot trust, a journey that no one would ever want to take. Yes, even for the throne.I was amazed by the intricacies of the french court. The lunacy of the people on it. The craziness of their marriage. It was just amazing.The book is classified as fiction, but honestly, it feels very biographical. The author even gives her references in the end and I feel like was written as it was happening.Please read this book. It was amazing.
dgmlrhodes on LibraryThing 25 days ago
This book is the first in a trilogy about Marie Antoinette. This book was a great start in telling her story spanning from Marie's pre-teen years through becoming the queen of France. Marie in the book is naive, charming and refreshing. Louis, her husband, is made out to be somewhat backwards and bumbling. I was excited to read this book since I read the book Abundance a while back and I was anxious to compare and contrast. This book starts a bit earlier than Abundance and presents a picture of how Marie had to physically and mentally transform herself to become Marie Antoinette, queen of France. There were some overlaps in the story between the two books, but this version did have some refreshing views in it. Overall, loved the story and am anxious for the next part in the trilogy!
AdonisGuilfoyle on LibraryThing 25 days ago
After an uneven introduction, full of awkwardly phrased infodumps and foreshadowing ('In my heedless haste to possess something beautiful, I had not considered the consequences'), Juliet Grey's first novel on the life of Marie Antoinette blossomed into a thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating (fictional) biography of France's unfortunate queen. Following the early training of the young Austrian archduchess under the strict instruction of her mother the Imperial Empress, to the political union with the Dauphin at the tender age of fourteen, and the transformation of Maria Antonia into Marie Antoinette at Versailles, Grey documents the familiar markers of the young Dauphine's life leading up to the death of the king and her husband's ascendancy to the throne. Written in a simple, open style that suits the young girl, the first person narrative matures with Marie Antoinette, but remains friendly and confident throughout. The comparison with Sofia Coppola's 2006 film is obvious, bar a greater respect for historical accuracy, and all the key events are featured - the ceremonial change of wardrobe on the Austrian/French border where Marie Antoinette is parted from her pug 'Mops'; learning the intricate and uncomfortable rituals of Versaille; overcoming the emotional and physical distance of Louis Auguste; playing mind games with the King's sisters and mistress; meeting Count Fersen. For this reason, Juliet Grey's novel is accessible to YA readers, helpfully translating every single snippet of French ('Et maintenant - And now -') and explaining the political and historical background of the French court and Austrian empire, but thankfully not at the expense of a wider audience. Although the translations and foreshadowing continue throughout the novel - at one point, Marie Antoinette is told that the Sun King's wife Marie-Therese is reputed to have said of the French peasants 'Let them eat cake', to which the young Dauphine responds, 'She should have gone out among the people and fed them' - Grey's narrative really brings the people and places of history to life. The indomitable Marie Antoinette and her beleaguered husband Louis, who must constantly rise above the petty intrigues of Versailles and the heavy burden of what is to come, are sympathetic characters without needing to excuse their future mistakes. I am always impressed by the 'training' young Maria Antonia had to go through to claim the 'honour' of becoming Dauphine of France - she was only fourteen when she married Louis - and equally saddened by the corruption of her innocence and kindness at Versailles. Similarly with gentle-natured Louis, who never wanted the responsibility of ruling the country, and would have been happier working as a labourer or a locksmith. Like Juliet Grey, I too want to save them from the inevitable, and I dread to read the next two novels in the series - but I definitely will.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book covers Marie Antoinette 's first 18 years of life. Very good. I just bought the next. Having extensive knowledge of the Plantagenets and Tudors and having read most of my British American history, I thought I should know of my French ancestors. Starting on the French Revolution was the greatest idea I have had thus far. You will only grow to learn what a poor choice Empress Marie Therese made by not educating her children properly.