Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette ~ by Carolly Erickson

I had forgotten about posting a single mention of a book on my first attempt at blogging ... TWO YEARS AGO. Yes, my friends, I must really be older than dirt because I had completely forgotten about starting a blog for my Book Buddies bookstore. Yep, and I managed to mention only one book before "real life" sped up and obliterated the bookstore ... and thus my budding career as a blogger. Wanna see it? Click here. Here's the single paragraph I posted about The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette on January 22, 2006:
I picked up this book when I was at the library, even though it was a 7-day book because it's so new in the system. Working six days a week and having to read a number of books to lead the discussion groups in my bookstore and in branch libraries leaves me little time to read just for myself. (Hmmm, maybe I could use this book as the next one I review for our community paper. But I digress ...) I was looking for any occasions of baptism where Marie Antoinette was present because one of my great-great-great (for several generations) grandmothers was "christened on the throne of Marie Antoinette." At least that's the story that came down through the family. So I was curious. And there were a couple of baptisms. Ha! I figure if any of my ancestors were close to the throne, they are among the ones who had to flee Paris as things got bad for the royal family. I noticed one of the babies was, I believe, the maid's child (or some servant). So my folks were not necessarily mixing with royalty as equals!
That wasn't remotely intended to be a book review, so I'll flesh out my thoughts in this post. But first let me say my review of the book WAS published in the local give-away paper. Sorry I don't have a copy of that review handy (it's in storage with all the books from the bookstore). Now, what I remember about the book:

Title, author, copyright date, and genre?
The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette ~ by Carolly Erickson, 2006, historical fiction

Summarize the book without giving away the ending.
The book's premise is that Marie Antoinette left behind a diary in her prison cell when she went off to die by guillotine. The diary was supposedly begun on June 17, 1769 as punishment when she was "thirteen years and seven months old." The diary becomes a record of her life as the reader follows what she records from her privileged childhood to her life as mistress of Versailles as the wife of the French king Louis XVI (married when she was 14) to her imprisonment and death during the French Revolution (October 16, 1793).

From whose point of view is the story told?
It's a diary so, of course, this is the life of Marie Antoinette as seen by herself.

Were the characters and their problems believable?
Oh, yeah! Though I read this book more than two years ago, I vividly remember some of what she had to deal with. King Louis XVI, her husband, comes across as a very weak man who didn't want to rule a country; he would have been happier if he had been free to do nothing but putter around the garden without the worries of a kingdom on his mind. It was pretty clear that Marie Antoinette should have been the one making decisions, like when the family should flee Versaille to save their lives. Louis dawdled, and they were captured trying to escape. She had had a love affair with handsome Swedish diplomat Count Axel Fersen, who risked his life to save her.

Share a favorite scene from the book.
Details escape me, two years after reading the book, but I remember her palpable fear on the night the Parisian mob broke into her palace bedroom intent on murdering her and her family. As a mother, I related most to her agony when her young son was torn from her arms, never to be seen again.

Was location important to the story?
I'm happy to report that this would be an excellent choice for those doing my Book around the World challenge to read as their choice for France.

Was the time period important to the story?
Yes, it's historical, and Carolly Erickson has done a superb job of capturing the time leading up to the French Revolution.

How would you rate this book?
Rated: 8/10, a very good book.


Marg said...

I didn't mind this book but I did find that this was one case where the diary format really didn't work for me! I did find that it worked in Sandra Gulland's trilogy about Josephine Bonaparte which would also be another excellent choice to read about France.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Thanks, Marg, I'll suggest both of these to the Book around the World participants.

Teddy Rose said...

Thanks for the review Boonie. It sounds very interesting to me, so I added it to my TBR. I also have Sandra Gulland's trilogy on my TBR, which Marg suggested.