Monday, May 28, 2012

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey

An intimate peek into the life of the infamous Marie Antoinette, Dauphine and Queen of France! 

Book Description:

Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.

From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.


Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey is the second novel of a trilogy based on the life of Marie Antoinette. The first book in the series was entitled Becoming Marie Antoinette. This second book focuses on the early years of Marie Antoinette’s reign as Queen of France and spans fifteen years of her life. It explores the development and evolvement of the French people’s animosity towards their monarch in the years leading up to the French Revolution.

When it comes to Marie Antoinette, I continue to be fascinated by her story. There have been numerous novels written about the life of this fascinating woman. What makes this book different than the others is that it portrays Marie Antoinette in neither a good light nor bad. Juliet Grey has done a marvellous job of showing us her faults and errors, as well as her naïveté and inexperience in a non-judgmental way. And because her life story is presented in a trilogy format, readers are able to understand this heroine in a deeper, more meaningful way. An example of this is how the author dealt with Marie’s affair with Axel Ferson – she portrayed the passion, guilt, and shame intricately and in a way that truly makes the young, unhappy queen seem real and vulnerable. Her foolishness in relentlessly gambling away money was portrayed very well – the losses were truly astounding – and her lack of remorse or worry truly shows us many of her less desirable qualities. Her frivolous spending was depicted as well as some of the queen’s more generous acts of charity or kindness. The novel is told in first person narrative in Marie’s voice. This engaging voice, coupled with vibrant descriptions of clothing, palaces, masques, and dinners, really thrusts the reader into the story.

Although I did not have the opportunity to read the first book in the series, I was able to follow the story easily without having to struggle to remember characters and situations. Power and great wealth can truly corrupt, especially in the hands of a very young woman thrust into the role of queen. For those wishing an indepth interpretation of Marie Antoinette’s life, this trilogy is perfect. Exceptionally well done!

From History and Women

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