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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060825405
  • ASIN: B002N2XFR8
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,454,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The opening sentence of Naslund's fictional memoir of Marie Antoinette ("Like everyone, I am born naked") sets a hypnotically intimate tone that never wavers as the much-maligned Austrian princess recounts her life from baptism in the Rhine and rebirth as French citizen to appointment with the guillotine. In Naslund's (Ahab's Wife) sympathetic portrayal, 14-year-old "Toinette" arrives in France a pretty-mannered naïf determined to please the king, the court and, most importantly, her husband, the Dauphin. The novel provides a wealth of detail as Toinette savors the food, architecture, music and gardens of Versailles; indulges in hair and clothing rituals; gets acquainted with her indifferent partner and her scheming new relations; and experiences motherhood and loss. Her story unfolds like classical tragedy—the outcome known, the account riveting—as famous incidents are reinterpreted (the affair of the necklace, the flight to Varennes), culminating in a heartbreaking description of the bloody head of the Princess de Lamballe held aloft on a pike for the deposed queen to see. With vivid detail and exquisite narrative technique, Naslund exemplifies the best of historical fiction, finding the woman beneath the pose, a queen facing history as it rises up against her. (Oct.)
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.


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

This is a very enjoyable work of historical fiction.
Amazon Customer
Sena Jeter Naslund is an amazing writer, and her talents are on full display in ABUNDANCE.
Anastasia Duro
It was not an overnight disinclination on the part of the peasantry.
Ismene

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 83 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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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 8, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Few historical figures continue to fascinate as does Marie Antoinette. Saint or sinner? Avaricious queen or unwitting martyr? It all depends upon which account you're reading. From the varying opinions, we can assume that she is still very much a mystery, an intriguing one. With prodigious research and imaginative text acclaimed novelist Sena Jeter Naslund (Ahab's Wife) offers an original approach to the life of the ill-fated queen. She does this by allowing Marie Antoinette to speak, thus revealing her impressions, thoughts, and actions in her own words.

From the opening line, "Like everyone, I was born naked" to a closing comment, ""I have lived the life dealt to me with as much kindness as I could," Abundance, as performed by Susanna Burney, is riveting listening. Burney effectively captures the voice of the naive 14-year-old Toinette when her marriage to the 15-year-old Daupin, France's future king, is arranged by her mother, the Empress of Austria. The actress is equally efective in expressing wonder as Toinette first explores the riches of Versailles, and finally courage when her son is turned against her and she faces the guillotine.

Known for meticulous attention to detail, author Naslund presents a vivid picture of the extravagances of life at court as well as the machinations of various officials who would use Toinette to better themselves. She was blissfully unaware of the dire straits her new country was in, whether due to naivete or deliberate oversight we do not know. However, listeners will find a sympathetic portrait of a young queen who suffered the indignity of her husband's neglect, the false friendships of many, and the horror of seeing her friend's decapitated head on a pike accompanied by angry chants of "Kiss the lips you've kissed before."

Abundance is historical fiction at its finest - enjoy!

- Gail Cooke
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55 of 66 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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13 of 14 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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11 of 12 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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