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Marie Antoinette: The Journeyby Antonia Fraser
A New York Times Notable Book for 2001
Synopses & Reviews
Never before has the life of Marie Antoinette been told so intimately and with such authority as in Antonia Fraser’s newest work, Marie Antoinette: The Journey. Famously known as the eighteenth-century French queen whose excesses have become legend, Marie Antoinette was blamed for instigating the French Revolution. But the story of her journey begun as a fourteen-year-old sent from Vienna to marry the future Louis XVI to her courageous defense before she was sent to the guillotine reveals a woman of greater complexity and character than we have previously understood. We stand beside Marie Antoinette and witness the drama of her life as she becomes a scapegoat of the Ancien Regime when her faults were minor in comparison to the punishments inflicted on her.
The youngest daughter, fifteenth out of sixteen children, of Austrian empress Maria Teresa and Francis I, Marie Antoinette was sent on a literal journey by her mother from Vienna to Versailles with the expectation that she would further Austrian interests at all times. Yet, Marie Antoinette was by nature far from interested in state affairs and much more inclined to exert a gracious, philanthropic role, patronizing the arts especially music, as royalty would come to behave in the nineteenth century. Despite this the French accused her of political interference and wrote scandalous tracts against her, mocking her lack of sophistication. Meanwhile, longing for a family and the birth of an heir who would have cemented the Franco-Austro alliance, the French queen had to endure more than eight years of public humiliation for her barren marriage before the delivery of her first of four children.
As these problems unfold, Antonia Fraser also weaves a richly detailed account of Marie Antoinette’s other, more poignant journey: from the ill-educated and unprepared girl who sought refuge in pleasure as a consolation into a magnificent, courageous woman who defied her enemies at her trial with consummate intelligence, arousing the admiration of even the most hostile revolutionaries.
Brilliantly written, Marie Antoinette is a work of impeccable scholarship. Drawing on a wealth of family letters and other archival materials, Antonia Fraser successfully avoids the hagiography of some the French queen’s admirers and the misogyny of many of her critics. The result is an utterly riveting and intensely moving book by one of our finest biographers.
From the Hardcover edition.
"Antonia Fraser's absorbing new biography reveals how much we did not know. Fraser...has produced a book to be savored, beautifully written and thoroughly researched. Above all, she provides a well-rounded picture with sensitive and fresh insights into the life and times of this unhappy queen." Selwa Roosevelt, Washington Post Book World
"The portrait is drawn delicately, with pleasant touches of humor....Fraser's approach is controlled and thoughtful....Her queen is neither heroine nor villain, but a young wife and mother who, in her journey into maturity, finds herself caught in a deadly vise." Publishers Weekly
"[A] lavish, benevolent new rendering of the queen....[A]mply researched but occasionally turgid..." Francine Du Plessix Gray, The New York Times Book Review
"The Marie Antoinette who emerges from these pages is fully formed, a feat for which Fraser deserves much praise....[A]n often sympathetic portrait." Cara Mio DiMassa, The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"This is a fine biography, sympathetic without sentimentality, and with a keen awareness of the texture of its subject's world. Above all, it effectively jettisons the image of Marie Antoinette as the frivolous hedonist, the empty-headed soubrette." John Adamson, Literary Review
"[A]n exciting biography....This volume moves quickly, but not without the most interesting of historical detail....A well-researched biography that may cause one to rethink the role in which history has cast Marie Antoinette..." Library Journal
From Antoinette's birth in Vienna in 1755 through her turbulent and unhappy marriage to Louis XVI, the turmoil of the French Revolution, her trial for high treason, and her final beheading, Lever draws on a variety of resources to weave a gripping, fast-paced historical narrative that reads like expertly crafted fiction.
The acclaimed author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII describes her life, from her betrothal as an unsophisticated, poorly educated fourteen-year-old girl to the future King Louis XVI, through her difficult marriage in the French court, to her courage in the face of revolutionaries who sent her to the guillotine twenty-three years later. Reader's Guide available. Reprint. 75,000 first printing.
France's iconic queen, Marie Antoinette, wrongly accused of uttering the infamous Let them eat cake, was alternately revered and reviled during her lifetime. For centuries since, she has beenthe object of debate, speculation, and the fascination so often accorded illustrious figures in history. Married in mere girlhood, this essentially lighthearted child was thrust onto the royal stage and commanded bycircumstance to play a significant role in European history. Antonia Fraser's lavish and engaging portrait excites compassion and regard for all aspects of the queen, immersing the reader not only in the coming-of-age of agraceful woman, but in the culture of an unparalleled time and place.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Antonia Fraser is the author of Mary Queen of Scots, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and Faith and Treason, among others. She is also famous for her Jemima Shore series of mysteries. She and her husband, Harold Pinter, live in London.
Table of Contents
Madame Antoine — The Dauphine — Queen consort — Queen and mother — The Austrian woman — Widow Capet.
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