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Becoming Marie Antoinette: A Novel by Juliet…
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Becoming Marie Antoinette: A Novel (2011)

by Juliet Grey

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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 |
Didn't read, but gave to my dad. No clue if he liked it, but he likes French Revolution stuff. ( )
  kcarrigan | Aug 26, 2013 |
My Opinion: Everything I know about Marie Antoinette I learned in school during history class, which was more of an overview of her time as the last queen of France, mostly centering on the French Revolution, her execution, and of course, the famous phrase "let them eat cake." When I saw this book listed on NetGalley I was instantly curious to learn more about the girl Maria Antonia, in essence what events shaped her into the woman and queen she would one day become. I wasn't disappointed either! I found her story fascinating, starting out as a wide eyed innocent who was molded by a domineering mother into the most powerful woman in France. She grew up relatively sheltered as the youngest daughter (her mother had 16 children!) of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and was thrust into the high drama that was the court at Versailles at the tender age of 14. There was so much intrigue and so many rules of conduct and etiquette that she had to learn, as any misstep could lead to crushing humiliation and loss of social standing, which would have been disastrous as she was under the command of her mother to get close to the King of France, her husband's grandfather, Louis, to strengthen the political ties between France and Austria. Add to this, her inability to get her husband, Louis Auguste, to consummate her marriage so they could produce an heir, which was vital to the succession of the monarchy, not to mention her own personal well-being since the Catholic church back then considered being a barren royal as worse than adultery!

I felt that this book did a great job at balancing historical fact with a compelling fictional story. The facts lent credence to the story, which in turn gave it an authenticity that wouldn't have been there had it just been a fictional novel about a historical figure. I look forward to reading the next installment of this compelling trilogy because even though I know how it will eventually turn out, I look forward to continuing the journey and finding out where the author is going to take me next :D ( )
  jwitt33 | Mar 30, 2013 |
Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first of the author's planned trilogy about the woman baptized as Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna of Austria, but remembered and historically vilified as Queen Marie Antoinette of France. Chronicling her all-too-short years from adolescence to her ascension to the throne of France in 1774, a well-rounded, human version of the woman emerges from the pages of this easy-to-read historical fiction. The later books in the series (Days of Sorrow, Days of Splendor is the tentative title of book two) will focus more on the time Marie reigned alongside her doomed husband, Louis XVI.

While this novel can be historically uneven (the "nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen” stated on the back blurb is untrue because really, all she had to do was be born at the right time, to the right family; the author has her struggle to learn French but Marie Antoinette spoke French fine as Vienna was a multilingual city, however she had poor reading comprehension and writing skills) and take liberties with facts and dates, I more than enjoyed this look into a younger Marie Antoinette. Beginning when the petite archduchess is only ten, the novel chronicles several tense years as she tries to cement with marriage an alliance the Empress Maria Theresa desperately needs.

Thrust between two all-powerful monarchs (the aforementioned Maria Theresa of the Holy Roman Empire and Louis XV of France) in a then-prevalent way of forging peace between warring European states, Marie has to please her mother and honor Austria all the while making France her country's ally. By trying to remain true to Austria all the while attempting to win the unfriendly French to her side shows the sheer impossibility of Marie's position in life. Amid impossible goals, treacherous relatives, scheming courtiers and her own impossible husband, it was remarkably easy for me to feel quite sympathetic for this character. Using this constant national game tug-of-war between the powers frequently creates a great deal of tension and pressure for the young girl for the entire novel. While she might be dauphine and first woman of France, Marie never is free or independent, nor truly, exuberantly happy. She attempts sex and/or affection many times with her husband, but he is painfully shy with her, almost a recluse. Marie, coming from a huge family of fifteen siblings and parents who married for love, is understandably upset by his lack of feeling and thus isolates herself from her one true ally for much of the novel.

I've not read many Marie Antoinette historical fictions, or even ones centering on the Gallic world. I tend to stay amongst the British and their Plantagenet, Lancaster/York, Tudors, Stuart families, etc. Winning this novel on goodreads.com has opened my eyes to a new, creative writer with a fresh take on this centuries old parable of overindulgence and moral decay. Happily, in this novel of hers, Ms. Grey does not immediately launch into the salacious and popular tales of the archduchess. By showing Marie at her most charming and vivacious in her young carefree years at home in Austria, a subtle foreshadowing of her tumultuous life in France is immediately brought to mind. I was very interested in her large, fractious Hapsburg family (fifteen siblings! Maria Theresa was a woman emperor -- in her own right! her parents were a love-match!) and thus the days at Shonbrun or the Hofburg, a palace that boasted a serving staff of 2,000 people alone!, were the most interesting for me. Another thing this novel does well is dispense interesting facts and tidbits without interrupting or displacing the flow of the plot or Marie's development.

Contrasting sharply with the long-held opinion of this Queen, Marie is shown to care for her Austrian subjects (and even her French ones when their own King does not!) as well as generally kind and loving nature. Hints of the troubles Marie will face later on in her noble are present as well; a certain disregard for consequences and rash actions/sayings is prevalent, though perhaps a bit too heavy-handed for my taste. Ms. Grey conveys the thoughts of the noblewoman better when she subtly alludes to Marie's less appealing traits. However, in the world of France, which was governed by the strict Salic law of its time, Marie does quite well in claiming what power she can and using it, all while doing what she can to influence her husband, to future king-to-be and thus a very strong potential ally for her family and home. The extreme disparity of life in the Hofburg, where the royal Hapsburg family was far more relaxed, dressing in far less formal clothing and even playing with 'common' children, the strict and rigid way of life in Bourbon Versailles is a constant reminder of just how out of place Marie feels for most of her teenage and early twenties in France. Constant reminders of how she does not fit in ("l'Autruchienne" being a clever if vulgar pun on the French words for ostrich [Austria] and for bitch) help to keep her off-balance and thus constantly caught between monarchs.

In the end, the novel boiled down to this single question for me: Is this a Marie Antoinette I liked enough to read about for three novels (and if the second two are as large as their 444 page predecessor) and 1350 pages only to have her die at the end? And that answer is a loud YES. While it is not perfect, it IS an enjoyable and new look into one of history's most maligned women. Grey's writing is original and clever enough with familiar material from historical class to make it less learning and more experiencing life as Marie navigates through her life with Louis -- what she has of it left. ( )
  msjessie | Feb 4, 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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345523865, Paperback)

This enthralling confection of a novel, the first in a new trilogy, follows the transformation of a coddled Austrian archduchess into the reckless, powerful, beautiful queen Marie Antoinette.
 
Why must it be me? I wondered. When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny?

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.

Filled with smart history, treacherous rivalries, lavish clothes, and sparkling jewels, Becoming Marie Antoinette will utterly captivate fiction and history lovers alike.

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(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:57 -0400)

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 mothers political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon. 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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