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Becoming Marie Antoinette: A Novel (2011)

by Juliet Grey

Series: Marie Antoinette (1)

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3453653,066 (3.95)27
Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother's political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon. Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must change everything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen.… (more)
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Marie Antoinette was born and grew up in Austria. When she was 10(ish) years old, it was determined that she would wed Louis Auguste of France, Louis XV’s grandson and heir to the French throne. However, Antonia (as she was called then) had a few hoops to jump through before the deal was sealed. When they did marry, Antonia was sent to France where she had to learn a new culture and at the same time be charming and have people love her, as she was to be the future queen. She continued to be pressured and influenced by her mother (from a distance).

This is the first in a trilogy, so we only get as far into Marie Antoinette’s life as Louis XV dying and she and her husband succeeding to the throne when they are 18-years old. I have read a biography of her, but it was a few years ago, so I don’t recall a lot of what I read then. I did like how she was portrayed in this novel, and I appreciated the author’s note at the end, which explains that the majority of people and events in the book did happen. I am really looking forward to reading the next book. ( )
  LibraryCin | Feb 26, 2019 |
This was a very enjoyable historical fiction. I see it is #1 of a series. I don't know if I can read more of the series, just because I'm getting a little burned out on historical fiction. But Juliet did a great job in drawing the reader into the story and the lives of the characters. I don't think I could have lived back then. The fact that people peed on the floors of the corridors and the fact that they got very stinky but didn't bathe for days if not weeks at a time. I also don't think I would be able to stand all the people who had to take care of Marie Antoinette. She never had a moment's peace. And even though all those people were around her, she was very lonely. If you like historical fiction and are interested in Marie Antoinette, then pick this book up and give it a try, you won't be disappointed. ( )
  MHanover10 | Jul 10, 2016 |
Becoming Marie Antoinette, the first novel in a planned trilogy about the infamous French Queen, follows the life of the title character from her late childhood in her native Austria to the day of her accession to the French throne as the consort Louis XVI.

It is evident right from outset that a significant amount of research went into the writing of this novel, and that the author took great care to ensure historical accuracy. This research, in combination with Juliet Grey's often eloquent prose, results in the Austrian and French courts coming vividly to life for the reader. It also serves to highlight the incredible differences between life in an Austrian palace and that of life at Versailles. Indeed, the presentation of life at Versailles in particular is one of the novel's greatest strengths. Another strength is Grey's sympathetic characterization of Marie Antoinette, who is portrayed as a charming young woman who, in spite of years of preparation for her role as dauphine, is quite unprepared for life within the Bourbon court. I also enjoyed the brief glimpses into the mind of Empress Maria Therese of Austria, which were showcased through the letters she wrote to her daughter.

While acknowledging that many of the reviews I have read for this novel have found little if anything to criticize, I had a number of issues with it. While I generally prefer detailed works of historical fiction to more cursory novels, I don't overly enjoy books that contain exhaustive amounts of detail that add little to a story. Unfortunately, Becoming Marie Antoinette is an example of a novel containing too much detail. In fact, there were several instances were it seemed Grey was simply trying to fit in every last piece of her research (the scene in which Marie Antoinette is having her braces affixed immediately comes to mind). As a result, even though I liked Grey's writing style, this book failed to captivate me. I think the book would have been better if Grey had spent more time detailing the goings on of the day and less on extensive accounts of what the characters were wearing or how they arranged their hair. It is my hope that the second novel in the trilogy (Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow) will better suit my tastes.

Recommended to fans of historical fiction interested in the early life of Marie Antoinette and those who enjoy considerable historical detail. ( )
  Melissa_J | Jan 16, 2016 |
Becoming Maria Antoinette is book one of the Maria Antoinette Trilogy by Juliet Grey.

This book follows the life of the young Maria Antonia Archduchess of Austria from the moment of her betrothal to the Dauphine of France when she was just ten years old to her first years in France previous to her husband, the future Louis XVI ascension to the throne.

Maria Antonia has always known she would marry an important man, somebody beneficial to Austria. What she had never thought was that she would be married so young.
Antonia has mixed feelings about her betrothal to the Dauphine, she is sad to leave her house and her siblings so soon but at the same time she is very excited because one day she will be Queen of France and that is something of great importance, not just for her but for her mother’s political interests. But things were not as easy as signing a contract, Maria Antonia was found to possess many faults, as her lack of education and lack of proper court behavior and some physical imperfections too as crooked teeth and bad hair. To be able to make the French happy she goes through a very exhaustive preparation and transformation, no only intellectually but physically. She received lessons for many hours a day, while been subjected to the painful orthodontic treatment of the XVIII century (I don’t even want to think about that, auch).
Finally her betrothal is finalized and months later Maria Antonia is leaving her family, home and country behind to start a new life as Maria Antoinette the Dauphine of France.
Her first years in France are not easy, she is very young still and married to a teenager who doesn’t have any interest in her or in politics. She also doesn’t know who can she trust or whom to believe in a court full of gossip and intrigues, where everybody wants to use her as a pawn including her mother the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.

Becoming Maria Antoinette was a really nice surprise. I have read books about Maria Antoinette but all of them were about her reign days and not the years previous to being queen, for that reason I found this book very interesting and enlightening. I didn’t know orthodontic treatments were practice during those days nor did I know how young she was and all the preparations she has to go through to be ready for France.

I found Mrs. Grey writing style ensnaring and real. For example Maria Antoinette’s character, she starts as a ten year old, her conversations and thoughts were clearly those of a girl her age, but as she is maturing those thoughts and dialogues mature as well. It’s the same with the evolution of the character of Louis XVI.

My final thought: I really enjoyed Becoming Maria Antoinette. I found it well written and historically accurate. It’s obvious Mrs. Grey did a tremendous job with her research, she knows what she is talking about, she owns her knowledge and gives it life throughout vivid descriptions of daily life situations. Descriptions that days after finishing the book I can still envision in my head.
Becoming Maria Antoinette was my first book by Juliet Grey but it won’t be my last. I’m looking forward to continue Maria Antoinette’s journey with the next installment of this series Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow due out summer 2012. ( )
  BookaholicCat | Mar 4, 2015 |
Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first installment of the Marie Antoinette trilogy by Juliet Gray. This is a fun and educational read.

I previously knew very little about Marie Antoinette, only that she was the queen of France who was beheaded during the French Revolution and that she once said, of the starving masses, "Let them eat cake!" Now, I feel sympathetic toward her, having the weight of the world placed upon her young shoulders beginning at the tender age of 10, when it was first suggested that she should marry Louis XVI and cement the treaty between Austria and France. She was constantly reprimanded by her ambitious mother, who withheld the simplest demonstrations of affection or comfort, then at 14 sent to Versailles without the slightest hope of ever seeing her beloved Austria or family ever again.

Once married and living in the palace at Versailles, I admire the way our heroine strove diligently to follow the often ridiculous French etiquette and to live above reproach. It was also fun to read about the crazy behavior of the upper echelon and to hear about the unusual circumstances of Marie Antoinette's marriage with a husband so shy that he could barely touch her for years and how she learned to love him, offering patience and understanding, for all his shortcomings.

And, just for the record, Marie Antoinette never did say, "Let them eat cake!"

This novel ends as Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI ascend the throne of France, and I am eagerly anticipating the next two books to learn how the rest of her story unfolds. ( )
  goode2shews | Nov 19, 2013 |
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Bella gerant alii, tu, felix Austria, nube. Others wage wars; you, happy Austria, marry. -MOTTO OF THE HAPSBURG DYNASTY
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My mother liked to boast that her numerous daughters were "sacrifices to politics."
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