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Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France [Paperback]

Evelyne Lever , Catherine Temerson
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 24 2001
 
In MARIE ANTOINETTE, Evelyn Lever draws on a variety of resources, including diaries, letters, and firsthand accounts, to write this sumptuous, addictive delight. From family life in Vienna to the choke of the guillotine, this gripping work combines a fast-paced historical narrative with all the elements of scandalous fiction: Marie's wedding at Versailles to Louis XVI, the French court, boredom, hypocrisy, loneliness, allies, enemies, scandal, intrigue, sex, peasant riots, the fall of the Bastille, mob rule in Paris, imprisonment, and, finally, execution.

From primary source documents Lever fashions an insightful glimpse into the French court at Versailles. The characters of court are expertly drawn. There is the dashing Axel Fersen, Marie's great love; Maria Theresa, the scheming mother trying to place her daughter on the Hapsburg throne; the legendary Madame du Barry, lover to Louis XV; and, of course, Marie herself.

Luxuriously evocative of the Versailles court, historically sharp and witty, and detailing the compelling story of Marie Antoinette's life, Evelyn Lever's biography entrances readers.

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From Amazon

This highly readable translation of French historian Evelyne Lever's 1991 biography captures all the drama and pathos of Marie Antoinette's short life. Born in 1755, this carefree, fun-loving daughter of Austrian empress Maria Theresa inherited neither her mother's political shrewdness nor her sense of duty. She was married off at 14 to the stolid, clumsy French Dauphin, who would not fully consummate their marriage for another seven years, at which point he was King Louis XVI and their marital difficulties were the subject of public ridicule. She consoled herself by retreating to the artificial village she constructed at Trianon, where she could be free of the court etiquette she hated and indulge in expensive amusements that only increased her unpopularity. Her rare incursions into politics were just as ill judged; she alienated the French nobility with attempts to further Austria's diplomatic goals, and from the first rumblings of revolution in 1788, she influenced Louis to take a hard line on royal power when compromise might have saved the monarchy and prevented their executions in 1793. Lever does not soften Marie Antoinette's faults or downplay her poor judgment, but most readers will finish this absorbing narrative feeling very sorry for a pretty, goodhearted, but fundamentally frivolous woman thrown into a historical moment whose demands were beyond her. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This romantic portrait of the queen who was reviledAand eventually executedAby the French revolutionaries transforms the woman who supposedly said "Let them eat cake" from a symbol of the cruelty of class politics into a quaint sovereign. Lever, a French historian who has written biographies of Madame de Pompadour and other figures of the French court, sees Marie Antoinette as a fashionable and frivolous victim of salacious rumors. While she admits that her subject had a "complete lack of insight into the aspirations of the majority of the French people," Lever portrays Antoinette as the novelistic heroine she always wanted to beAnot an actor on the political stage. Her "voluptuous bosom," "fleshy mouth" and "supple neck," Lever writes, were unspoiled by her "slightly protruding blue eyes," and she "knew better than any other sovereign how to bring to perfection the aristocratic art of living of prerevolutionary France." Although a compelling narrative, the book doesn't do justice to the weighty moral and political themes Marie Antoinette's life and death raise. The queen, it is clear, was a political disaster, managing to alienate both a sizeable section of the courtly aristocracy and the starving masses. Her extravagance and counter-revolutionary impulses provoked "incredibly venomous" lampoons (and, of course, her death). But Lever never takes up these components of her life. Rather, she repeatedly ascribes acts of revolutionary violence to "madness" perpetrated by "madmen." Energetically researched in Paris, Vienna, even Sweden (the home of the queen's dark, handsome beau, who also "looked exactly like the hero of a novel"), the book is evocative, but romance, rather than historical analysis, takes precedence here. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
Vienna, November 2, 1755. Her windows wide open, as was her habit, regardless of the rigors of the season, the Empress Maria Theresa worked without respite. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a biography of Marie-Antoinette May 21 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book doesn't read like a biography of the Queen at all. I enjoyed it nonetheless, but I don't feel like I know a whole lot about marie-antoinette now. I feel like I know more about France and what happened to France at that point in time. Even though I like finding out about the political situation at one point in the book I realised it was too detailed in telling the reader what was happening regarding the Estates General and how it changed and progresses. I know it is essential to tell what was happening in France while telling her story, but my feeling is that the background info about France was the leading topic of the book and the book should be re-titled. In some parts however the author was really skimpy on detail and for example in the case of the diamond necklace if I hadn't have watched the movie about the necklace I wouldn't have been able to follow and understand the events in the book. In other words, you almost needed some background info yourself before you read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Widow Capet in biography Nov. 22 2003
Format:Paperback
Partway through this well-written biography of Marie Antoinette, you realize that you'd rather be reading the biography of her powerful mother, Maria-Theresa, Empress of Austria. The book opens with an excellent mini-bio of Marie Antoinette's politically-savvy mother, who succeeded her father as empress of the eastern empire and who, in addition to making 16 or so children, spent a good deal of her time marrying them off to political advantage, whether or not the match was one that would bring personal happiness to her children. Indeed, some of the princes and kings were duds.
Marie Antoinette was not in herself a terribly interesting person. Her life reads like the life of any celebrity, surrounded by lovers, sycophants who enjoyed a fabulous lifestyle. Marie ensconced herself at The Trianon, dispensing with court dress and court manners to live a luxurious and peaceful life. Sadly, the ferment of the French Revolution swirled around this somewhat simple queen, and she paid a price that must have, in the end, surprised her. The story of their belated attempt to escape France, and the indifference of other crowned heads of Europe (relatives) to their plight is pathetic.
This biography is dry at times--perhaps due to the fact that it's the surrounding history, persons and events that make Marie Antoinette interesting, not the queen in herself.
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Format:Hardcover
Madame Lever has a good sense of style and confidence when it comes to her writing of Marie Antoinette's biography. I have not looked into the actual accuracy of the dates and events that occurred, but instead read the book to acquire some background knowledge about the Queen. However, I'd be interested to know why the family tree shows the son of a duke being two years older than his father. :)
The book reads like a soap opera, without too much emphasis on the political background of Marie Antoinette and Louis the Sixteenth, and more emphasis on the dirty little details of their private lives. However, there seemed to be too much repetition involved in discussing the Queen's affair with Swedish count Axel Fersen, and in these points, the book could become dry and only worth skimming. I also found myself confused at the switching of names between Princess Marie Therese and Madame Royale from chapter to chapter, when they were in fact the same person.
The ending was beautiful, sophisticated, and simple. I appreciated the epilogue, because I found myself interested in what happened to the (few) survivors of the French Revolution. The cover was well done also, and is a beautiful work overall. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in a biography about scandalous royalty. :)
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5.0 out of 5 stars The new Marie Antoinette July 8 2001
Format:Hardcover
A new biography of Marie Antoinette. There is something of a yawn here. Uness you're new to this old story of woe, you're sure to find here nothing new. The exhausted dramatis personae soon emerge and take their cues as in those archaic dramas by Corneille. Tired old characters: Marie Theresa, Mercy, Campan, DuBarry, Lamballe, Artois, Fersen, Vaudeuil, la Motte, Rohan, etc. Soon rally about the new inept royal couple and quickly tear them apart. I actually recommend this new biography of the doomed Austrian archduchess who became Queen of France in 1774. Although scholastic this new version has something of Jean Pleidy in it. Mostly simply because the historical reality is so intensely melodramatic. Evelyne Lever draws the life of this enigmatic and super vilified woman with certainty but without the vital background information given by Andre Castelot. Neither she has the brilliance and posseses the supreme compassion articulated by Stefan Sweig. A book I recommed to those interested in the subject is 'The Wicked Queen' by Chantal Thomas. An account of the disguting depravity and horror, indirectly propelled by Marie Antoinette's chronic shot-sightness. What remains as yet depicted is the woman herself. Marie Antoinette is an enigma. And thus she smiles wanly from many a bookcase. No writer will be able to reveal the woman herself. Who like Hecuba sat humiliated inside the Conciergerie; waiting to die. Or the desperate mother whose's son was torn from her arms at the Temple. Vilified and spat upon as she so tragically returned to Paris from Varennes, in a living nightmare. Or like Penelope, whom in those perilious mornings at the Tuilleries, astutely grinned at revolutionaries, then at night screamed for help in code. Or the queen, who under a new mauve parasol in organza, paced sighing about the gardens of Trianon, her heart suddenly beating faster at the sight of the comtesse de Polignac. Marie Antoinette lives forever.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Marie-Antoinette: La "Princesse Diana" de son temps
Très bon livre sur Marie-Antoinette; sa personnalité, les derniers jours avant la Révolution Française. Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2005
3.0 out of 5 stars Author of Book is so-so writer.
While the book itself isn't bad, in fact it's informative, the problem is that it's somewhat informative, it's missing a few details, and it seems that the author of the book... Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2004 by Cindy Y. Araya
4.0 out of 5 stars The title IS CORRECT!!
The reader who claims the title is wrong DOES NOT KNOW French History. Marie Antoinette, Reine de France et Navarre WAS THE LAST Queen of France. Read more
Published on Aug. 30 2001 by L. Henderson
4.0 out of 5 stars The title IS CORRECT!!
The reader who claims the title is wrong DOES NOT KNOW French History. Marie Antoinette, Reine de France et Navarre WAS THE LAST Queen of France. Read more
Published on Aug. 30 2001 by L. Henderson
1.0 out of 5 stars Factcheckers please note!
One cannot believe much in a book with an incorrect title. Marie Antoinette was not the last queen of France. Read more
Published on July 30 2001 by martin chapman
2.0 out of 5 stars Why this truncated version?
This is truly strange! The French edtion has 733 pages and this English version is clearly truncated. Why? Read more
Published on April 8 2001 by "franceshead"
5.0 out of 5 stars A famous person in history comes alive for modern readers
My curiousity about Marie-Antoinette and her life first came about in high school, when my French teacher would tell us about the French queen's "Petit Trianon" and her... Read more
Published on March 13 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing look at the life of Marie Antoinette
A very good biography of Marie Antoinette, which mixes both the politics of the time along with the many mistakes made by Marie Antoinette. Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2000 by Dana Keish
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Travel
I am an avid reader of history and biography and, in this book, I found the perfect blending of BOTH! Read more
Published on Sept. 7 2000 by William I Moen
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