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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Appropriately, Burney begins her performance in the adorable upper registers of the 14-year-old Marie Antoinette, shipped to France by her mother, the Empress of Austria, to marry the 15-year-old Dauphin and peacefully conjoin France and Austria. Unfortunately, Burney continues in this insipid tone throughout her reading, which is understandable as Naslund (Ahab's Wife) portrays Marie as Little Mary Sunshine until the moment of her death by guillotine at age 38. Her love affair with a Swedish diplomat is strictly platonic and her inability to empathize with the French people is laid to her paternalistic advisers. All this may or may not be historically true, but it leaves listeners with Marie's diary-style descriptions of her personal and court life: the Dauphin's sexual limitations, the birth of her children, her clothes and hairstyles, girlish friendships and expensive banquets. The abridgment reinforces this focus by cutting little early on, then skipping quickly from one incident to another as the revolution evolves. Naslund's writing is clear and vivid, but offers little for those seeking a deeper understanding of the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Sena Jeter Naslund (Ahab's Wife, 1999) relies on the abundant romance and intrigue of 18th-century France to buoy the weaker moments of her narrative. Her Marie Antoinette is self-absorbed, coddled, and fluttery, a woman who seems to care more about friends and flowers than about the growing discontentment in her adopted country. Reviewers are divided on whether this depiction of the queen renders her an unsuitable narrator. Marie's perspective is a valuable reminder of her lifelong vulnerability and struggle to fit in, but her inability to see very far outside her head means the reader may occasionally miss out on valuable cultural context ? or simply lose interest.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060825405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060825409
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #536,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sena Jeter Naslund is the author of the novels Four Spirits and Abundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette and a short story collection, The Disobedience of Water. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, she is a winner of the Harper Lee Award; Distinguished Teaching Professor and Writer in Residence at the University of Louisville; director of the Spalding University brief-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing program; former poet laureate of Kentucky; and editor of The Louisville Review and the Fleur-de-Lis Press.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Susan Higginbotham on October 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Abundance is told in the first person by Marie Antoinette, and though it doesn't purport to be a journal, it's told in a journal-like fashion, with the events unfolding as the queen experiences them rather than in retrospect. From what I can tell (it's not my period by any means), it's well researched, and it's sympathetic toward Marie Antoinette without minimizing her weaknesses. The other members of the royal family are rendered nicely too, especially Louis XVI. (For those who are wondering, Axel von Fersen is very much a presence here, though the queen's relationship with him is a chaste one.)

In many historical novels about well-known figures, authors tend to jump from one Big Event to another, serving history while at the same time slighting character. Naslund tends to move in the opposite direction. While she covers all of the usual set pieces of Marie Antoinette's life--her husband's difficulty in consummating their marriage, her reluctance to acknowledge the Comtesse du Barry, her public childbirth, the Affair of the Necklace--Naslund tends to focus more closely on her more everyday, mundane interactions with her family and friends, at least until the revolution overtakes all normalcy. I especially liked the queen's reminiscences about the hippotamus and rhinoceros in her childhood home, the scene where the royal family witnesses the launch of a hot air balloon, and the later scene where the queen is served "fruit" that turns out to be small balloons. (Through a later scene where another balloon launch ends in tragedy, Naslund neatly inserts a sense of impending disaster for the royal court as well.)

Once fate overtakes the royal family, Naslund conveys the increasing terror of their lives powerfully.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Anastasia Duro on October 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Sena Jeter Naslund is an amazing writer, and her talents are on full display in ABUNDANCE. Her prose is gorgeous, lush and full -- quite befitting a queen. I love the way she takes a character traditionally villified and mocked in the history books and rpesents a much more human and well-rounded portrait of her. Naslund carries themes through her book quite successfully -- color, fashion, love of other, portraiture, and beauty. I enjoyed watching them build as the author threaded these themes & images through the book. This book is a lovely counterpart to the movie, and a palatable introduction to the historical Marie Antoinette.
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60 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Vestyla on July 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
Ms. Naslund has done the impossible - she's made Marie Antoinette boring! She is portrayed as floating aimlessly through her life while thinking kindly, flowery thoughts about everything from her handkerchief (which has too much lace and not enough fabric to blow her nose on) to her little plum colored shoes (that served her so well.) I promise you, when Marie Anotinette was standing on the scaffold, she was NOT trying to decide if the color of light is "more silvery or gold". By the end of this book I was ready to put my own head in the guillotine just to stop the pain.

If you want exceptional research and well-written biography, read Antonia Fraser's "Marie Antoinette: The Journey". If you want page-turning historical fiction, try Victoria Holt's "The Queen's Confessions".
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on November 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Of late, there seems to be a great deal of notice being paid to the ghost of the French Queen, Marie Antoinette. Several fictional accounts, and several biographies, of varying degrees of profiency have been published in the last five years. A recent film has garnered both controversy and acclaim. Now the author of Ahab's Wife turns her attention to this historical figure.

Most know her as a queen who literally lost her head during the French Revolution, and she's become a byword for frivolity, strange fashions, and bad behavior. Others see her as a martyr, a symbol of monarchy, and a misunderstood woman. Most of the historical fiction that I've read about her has been extremely missable, done in a syrupy, trite way that insults both the subject and the reader -- the worst offender in that regard is Kathryn Davis' Versailles.

This narrative about Marie Antoinette is told from the point of view of the queen herself, arriving at the city of Strassbourg at the tender age of fourteen. It's the first time that she's been away from her harridan of a mother, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and young Marie is homesick, and more than a little afraid and excited by her new status of being married soon to the heir of the King of France. But first there is a ritual of undressing from her Austrian clothing, and coming to France as a naked girl to mark that she is now 'French'. Even her beloved pug dog, Mops, is going away. And used to her numerous siblings and parents, Marie finds the stifling etiquette of the French court incomprehensible.

From being married to the shy, socially awkward Dauphin, Louis Auguste, to the machinations of the three spinster daughters of Louis XV, Marie finds Versailles to be a place of contradictions.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tara O'Donnell on October 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of Ahab's Wife,I found Sena Jeter Naslund's new book to be just as wonderful. She really knows how to bring historical figures to life and her descriptions of the lush environment Marie A. is surrounded are incredibly rich,like a chocolate torte.

With the new Sofia Coppola MA movie coming up,there'll more interest in Marie Antoinette and this book should be a delightful fictional companion for it.
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