2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let them eat cake!
If you enjoy historical memoirs, then Marie Antoinette will absolutely come to life through this book. Antonia Frasier creates a very sympathetic portrait of MA from the traumatic parting from her mother when she left her childhood home to marry a boy she'd never met, to the tauntings she endured for being childless for years, and of course to the bitter end at the hands...
Published on July 14 2006 by Jane Austen fan
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Up to Antonia Fraser's Other Efforts
This book is a total white wash of Marie Antoinette. If you are looking for an unbiased biograph, do not look here. Compared to "Mary Queen of Scots" and "Cromwell", this book was just not up to Ms. Fraser's usual high standards. I could not wait for this book to come out, ran out and bought it and read it immediately. While reading it, I kept...
Published on Jan. 7 2002 by Lauren S. Kahn
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let them eat cake!,
This review is from: Marie Antoinette (Audio Cassette)
If you enjoy historical memoirs, then Marie Antoinette will absolutely come to life through this book. Antonia Frasier creates a very sympathetic portrait of MA from the traumatic parting from her mother when she left her childhood home to marry a boy she'd never met, to the tauntings she endured for being childless for years, and of course to the bitter end at the hands of the mob. Lots of court intrigue is explored, also the myth that she ever said "let them eat cake." The author clearly came to respect MA, who apparently always had something nice to say to everyone. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in reading about women's lives or exploring why the knives really came out for MA, who had no real political power.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacularly addictive,
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This review is from: Marie Antoinette: The Journey (Paperback)
I watched the movie first and was intrigued to read the book that inspired the movie. I wasn't disappointed. The book was a wealth of information and provided so much insight on the life and times of Marie Antoinette and how she came to be the woman she was. I didn't realize how misunderstood she was and the utter lack of acceptance. To be always known as the "Austrian woman" eventhough she was the mother of France and really tried her best to be accepted by the French people. The book was factual but had a tender touch as well. You couldn't help but love MA and even want to be her friend, which she so desperately needed and craved. The loving and close household in which she grew up and the coldness and callousness of the French court was expertly portrayed. The early years when the people were excited for the new Dauphine and the utter contempt for her during the Revolution was so vividly written. I can't imagine a more definitive book to give the reader a real sense of her early years and her untimely demise. Buy it and i guarantee you won't be able to put it down. Its just that fantastic!
4.0 out of 5 stars Whet's the Appetite for More Things French,
Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette was a deeply affecting entre into French history. I somehow managed to elude reading works of this bloody overthrow- the rule of the mob and its atrocities, were avoided unless they were somehow part of literature and the occassional film. The characters also were repellent, vile Robbespierre, Marquis de Sade, and the unfathomable treatment of innocents. Napoleon too, seemed like a man's study, too much war, tactics, battles, generals- demanded some kind of interest that was well beyond me. However, Marie Antoinette, A Journey, reversed all previous prejudices and ignited a wave of further reading, not unlike a hunger. Alas, no other books had the seductive charm of this, but even that did not diminish my drive to know more. The incestuous rulers of Europe were, as everyone knows, breeding themselves into obsolescense. They assumed their various family lines fortified through marriage and sustained by vast wealth would ensure monarchical government across the continent and the span of the world. Their largely compromised viewpoint and egregious lack of training elicited fear and subordination in their subjects, as indeed it inspired contempt. Entering into a foreign land as the princess and queen to be, Marie Antoinette, was illequipped and destined to be the source of vicious gossip and the foreign scapegoat for tyranny and exploitation suffered by the as they say, common man. She was a pampered and overly protected child when she arrived in her new country, and was both ignorant and reckless in her spending and arrogance. As any young bride, she retained a childish preoccupation for objects and people who might satisfy her own regal hungers and somehow qualify her as the fascinating object that would stimulate her husband into a sexual performance that was denied to the would-be lovers. This failed consumation was naturally blamed on the queen already humiliated and She was simply dropped into a very dangerous court when no more than a teenager. The language and customs were so unlike her Austrian childhood memories that she was an easy target for the ruthless in and about her palace.
What fraser does quite well with regard to a popular biography is scrupulous discipline with regard to research and organization. One needn't memorize facts or personalities because they are so integrated into her subject that they are simply a part of the story and thereby easily absorbed. Her perspective of Marie is similar, to the sympathetic and equally tragic biography of Mary Queen of Scots, another absorbing and thorough study. As a woman of her time, Marie had no real power other than to bestow favoritism and spend freely. Her fate was to be marginalized by her sex as well as her foreign birth. She had limited resources of her own, her brothers who rose to the throne in Austria were essentially unreliable for purposes of soldifying her position. Her last tragic months and the terrifying death were managed without the frivolous, histrionic manner by which she's been reviled, but as a mature and royal personage who even in the midst of this bloody period, was utterly dignified. The book is full of the kind of details of dress, furniture and adulterous deceits that are of interest to certain readers. It allows a fair amount of historical detail that enhances the story's progress and, for me at least, long for more.
4.0 out of 5 stars They Love Her Or Hate Her,
I read many reviews of this book and other works on this Queen, certainly one of history's more controversial Monarchs. This was the first major biography I had read and I was surprised by the intensity of feeling this woman arouses, she either has enthusiastic admirers or others whose feelings are just as intense but negative. I think this book is reasonably evenhanded, if it does favor one view of the subject I would say the author is more favorably disposed toward Marie Antoinette. This work in no manner is a fawning biography of a person who was without faults. Her failings are identified, but they are not sensationalized.
One matter that struck me was the outrageous pamphlets that were printed and circulated about her. Compared to the tabloids of today what you pass at the supermarket checkout is extremely mild. This woman as Queen was accused with graphic drawings of every imaginable offense that came to the printer's salacious minds. This public humiliation that was routine years before she was imprisoned provided fertile ground for the fictions that were heaped upon her at her, "trial".
She certainly may have been guilty of errors but most would seem to be errors of omission rather than conspired strategy. As a 14-year-old semi-literate child she was married to another adolescent and then spent 7 years waiting for the marriage to be consummated. As customary as certain rituals may have been, being required to give birth in front of a crowd is demented. She was accused of having an affair with a certain Duke, so what? If she did not she would have been an exception to the rule. When a King had a favored mistress she was given a place at court.
I thought, "The Affair Of The Necklace", was well documented and put that accusation against the Queen to rest. As to the, "let them eat cake", comment, I don't believe she was clever enough to utter what was a well-known phrase long before she was even born. When the charges that were leveled at her including crimes against her children, it is clear this crowd that paraded heads about the city was interested in adding hers. Whether she was guilty of any crime was hardly proven, and rarely was there any evidence given.
At least from this reading I would surmise that the vilification of this woman was largely invented or spectacularly exaggerated. To the extent she did cause mischief it is hard to identify what it may have been, for distortion and not truth was the currency of late 18th Century France.
4.0 out of 5 stars The Austrian Queen of France,
Five years were spent on the research and writing of this book. The result is a meticulous account, on an almost daily basis, of Marie Antoinette's life. We learn that she was a pleasure loving, friendly woman. But we also learn that she was not the brightest and could hardly read or write. And that is how the little girl from Austria entered womanhood as the dauphine and queen of France. Being that l'Autrichienne was the first strike against her. The second was her unquestioning obedience to her mother Maria Theresa, the empress of Austria, and later to her brother emperor Joseph II. And the third strike was that she would not comprehend what agitated the people of France. As we all know: three strikes, and you are out.
A writer chooses a subject for a biography because it interests him and because he likes it. That induces prejudice that has to be avoided. How did Mrs. Fraser fare? She obviously likes Marie Antoinette very much, and her prejudice shows. When bad news cannot be avoided, she tries to qualify them. Did Marie Antoinette have a love affair with Count Fersen? Most probably - but then we have no eye witnesses. Did she spend profligately on the Petit Trianon and on St. Cloud? Yes - but then that was customary. Did she mess up in politics? Yes - but then she was politically uneducated. Did she come on too strong in behalf of her Austrian relatives? Yes - but then it did not get her anywheres. All this tilts the tenor of the book. Hand in hand with this go sins of omission that could make Marie Antoinette look really bad.
The queen of France started out on good terms with the French people and only her Austrian provenance was held against her. And then everything began to deteriorate. It started in earnest with the pamphlets describing her as a drunken wanton. Were they so wrong and freely invented? Where there is smoke, there is fire. Maybe the affair with Count Fersen was not quite that secret. Nor her closeness to the Princesse de Lamballe and the Duchesse de Polignac. L'Autrichienne did interfere in the politics of ther husband, the king. And she did promote Austrian interests whenever she was asked to. The sums of money she spent were enormous in a time when France was practically bankrupt. Thus Marie Antoinette finished her life as the most hated person in the country. She was a flighty person, with little education and not much brains. Maybe that explains some of it.
Antonia Fraser gives a somewhat lopsided account of her subject up to the time the revolution took form. After that, Marie Antoinette's fate is out of her hands and the narrative can continue with straight forward history. And that she does well.
5.0 out of 5 stars Sparkling and Scholarly,
Lady Antonia Fraser has turned out another brilliant biography. Although she has left her native Great Britain for France in this life of Marie Antoinette, the result is a work that brings France's last Queen to life as vividly as any of her earlier efforts.
Marie Antoinette was one of the younger children of Empress Maria Theresa, who used her off spring as bargaining chips to improve the Hapsburg Dynasty's position in Europe. Antoine, as she was known, was unfortunate enough to be the right age to marry the heir to the French throne. Fraser spends a lot of time discussing the cold blooded negotiations that preceded 14 year old Antoine's being shipped off to France to marry the 15 year old Dauphin.
Not surprisingly, this marriage of children was unfruitful for several years. In reaction to this and to the iron clad etiquette of the court at Versailles, Marie Antoinette ( as she was now known) led a frivolous life of partying, gambling, and spending. Fraser does a good job in pointing out that Marie's spending habits were only a drop in the bucket of France's mounting economic crisis in the 1770s and 1780s, but her extreme visibility made her an easy target for the rising public anger against the monarchy. Fraser also does a good job of documenting the love affair Marie had with Count Axel Fersen as well as the infamous Diamond Necklace Affair, which ruined her reputation once and for all.
After Louis XVI matured enough to father four children on Marie, the Queen settled down to a calmer, quieter life, but the damage was done. She had become the symbol of everything that was wrong with the Old Regime, and after 1789 she and her family slid to destruction. Fraser does an admirable job on the last harrowing years of the Queen's life, helping us recognize the dignity and courage displayed by the Royal Family in their darkest hour.
Fraser concentrated primarily on Marie Antoinette's personal life. The events of Louis XVI's reign and of the Revolution are seen only as they directly affected the Queen. Throughout the book Fraser writes clearly and with a felicitous turn of phrase: the fishwives who harassed the Queen at Versailles were "mouthy battleaxes." Some of Fraser's wittiest comments are in the footnotes, including a delicious speculation on Benjamin Franklin's connection to the conception of the Queen's first child! Fraser's wit and humor combine with her sound scholarship to make Marie Antoinette: The Journey, a treasure not to be missed.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best bios I've read in awhile...,
I literally could not put this book down. This is honestly the first time that I've ever read anything about Marie Antoinette that managed to humanize her. From the mundane--but nonetheless interesting--details (did you know that at age 14 Marie A. had braces put on her teeth, a cutting-edge technology at the time?) to the broad strokes that put the whole story in perspective, the author manages to paint a picture of an innocent girl used as a pawn on the global stage of European politics, and then as a spark point used to explode the French Revolution. The evolution from girl to somewhat frivolous young woman to mature mother resigned to a terrible fate is deftly portrayed. The only flaw that I can cite is that the events leading up to the Revolution are somewhat sketchily explained, so that the whole mess seems to burst rather suddenly onto the scene. But perhaps that's what the author was trying to do, so that the reader is as surprised by the suddenness of the fury as Marie Antoinette seems to have been.... A must read....
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!,
This book, I believe, touched to the heart of Marie Antoinette.
Ms. Fraser has done more than wonderful a job on this book. I have been so tired of seeing poorly researched books written (The Wicked Queen by Chantal Thomas, Julie Rose.. horrible!) of Marie Antoinette, that are based on heresy of a population that I believe used her as a scapegoat for all their misery and much misunderstanding on both parts. Perhaps Marie Antoinette was a victim not only of the French Revolution and the facts leading thereof, but of her own naivete as well as Louis XVI.
I found the book touching, and even though I knew what was to come in the end, Ms. Fraser kept me hoping the Royal Family would escape harm.
I am not a historian, but an avid reader of women in history. Marie Antoinette has always been one of my favorites. As an average reader, I believe readers alike will find this book to be highly enthralling, a page turner. As a mother, I believe readers will find a tear or two escaping. (I know I did!)
I loved this book! It is now on my 'favorites' shelf.
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragic Story of French Revolution's Famous Victim,
Lady Antonia Fraser newest biography is a familiar story but she fortunately brings many new facts and forgotten figures to light. By including "The Journey" in her title, Lady Fraser's
main purpose is to convince the reader that Marie Antoinette did
indeed transform herself from the frivolous and disinterested Queen she was purported to be. This the author accomplishes brilliantly and with the historical facts needed to back herself up.
Within the first few pages, Lady Fraser thoroughly trounces that famous and oft-repeated statement attributed to the Queen ("Let them eat cake!")as nothing more than a vicious slur while
acknowledging it as the first of many to do permanent damage to her image and character. Lady Fraser is able to separate rumors
from facts and does so through her inexhaustible research and innumerable sources. The long and painful incarceration of the Royal Family is quite detailed here and sheds new light on not only the ill-treatment of the Queen, but particularly of her son (who died miserably and isolated in captivity).
This is undoubtedly a sad story but one not unique for the victims of the French Revolution: a revolution that ended up
devouring itself and its leaders in the immolation of the Terror.
Lady Fraser certainly makes the case that, like most of the victims of this volatile period, Marie Antoinette was sentenced to death by a pre-arranged "kangaroo court" and was in essence
"murdered" not for what she had done, but for who she had been.
A rather sly reference in the epilogue notes that her chief harasser on the Revolutionary Committee, Jaques Hebert, ended
up in the same graveyard as the former Queen within a few short months: a deserving victim of the chaos and terror that he himself instigated.
All in all, Lady Antonia Fraser has written an outstanding
biography that compares well with her previous work and, in some instances, surpasses it. Thanks to this book, readers and historians alike will be able to obtain a far truer and balanced picture of a much-maligned historical figure. It is certainly a "Journey" worth taking.
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly engrossing biography,
True or false? 1) Marie Antoinette was a frivolous princess who became a clever, manipulative queen 2) She ruled France through her weak husband 3) She said of the bread-less French, "Let them eat cake." 4) In her spare time, she enjoyed dressing as a milk maid and wandering around a fake farm she had built at Versailles. If you answered "true" to any of these questions, you will want to read Antonia Fraser's detailed, engrossing biography of Marie Antoinette. Fraser's work is well-documented and scholarly, but it is neither dry nor slow reading. She provides sufficient background information to put the historical events in context, but does not allow the facts to hinder the flow of the story. Her writing has an immediacy that pulls the reader so deeply into the story, it is easy to forget that we already know the ending of this historical life. (When the royal family attempts to escape their French captors, Fraser allows us to think-to hope-they might get away.) Through Fraser's eyes, we first sympathize, and then empathize with the princess who only became queen by accident. In addition, Frazer gives us a thorough education in the social order at Versailles, the complex bureaucracy (and attendant jobs) of the French court, and the political infighting that ultimately was the downfall of the entire system. This is a thoroughly engrossing biography-a keeper.
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Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser (Paperback - Sept. 12 2006)
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