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The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette: A Novel Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (August 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312337086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312337087
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,494,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Historian Erickson (Bloody Mary; To the Scaffold; etc.) makes her first foray into fiction with this invented journal kept by the notorious queen who was sent to the guillotine during the French Revolution in 1793. Recounting her childhood as Austrian Archduchess Maria Antonia, her marriage to feckless Frenchman Louis XVI and her naïve pangs of conscience about hungry peasants clamoring at the gates of Versailles, Erickson delivers a spirited blend of fiction and fact. While Marie Antoinette's love affair with Swedish nobleman Axel Fersen is well-documented, other characters pivotal to Erickson's plot are pure fabrication: swarthy servant Eric, his jealous wife, Amelie, and the queen's confessor, Father Kuthibert. These inventions add color to the story of the ruler inaccurately linked to the phrase "Let them eat cake!" The novel's narrative engagingly reflects Marie Antoinette's progression from privileged adolescent to royal mother of four (though only one daughter and son survived into adulthood), and Erickson's descriptions of pomp and circumstance lend flavor and flair. While France's most infamous queen was clearly more sybarite than saint, Erickson's lively account reveals a woman whose bravery and resilience seem as noteworthy as the bloody details of her demise. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Best known for her highly readable biographies of European nobility, Erickson tries her hand at historical fiction. She approaches the life of one of France's most notorious queens from a first-person perspective, which allows her cleverly to blend fact and fiction. The diary spans 24 years, from Marie's childhood in Vienna to the eve of her execution. She is married to Crown Prince Louis at age 14 to form a political alliance. Her husband is shy and reclusive, given to escaping to the woods to catalog plants, and has little interest in women, including his wife. Even after he becomes Louis XVI, his eccentricities keep him cut off from the world. Marie Antoinette, meanwhile, hides her loneliness in extravagant parties and frivolous expenditures. No wonder that as the years progress both sovereigns are more and more out of touch with the populace. Erickson's picture of the queen is much different from the uncaring, Let them eat cake persona that is popularly evoked. There is no attempt to hide her tragic flaws, but her generosity, good intentions, and deep love for her children humanize her and make her more of a three-dimensional character. The use of the diary is, at times, contrived and awkward: in an attempt to provide background information, the queen's writing is inconsistent in places. However, this is an excellent piece of historical fiction, and a valuable companion to more accurate biographies.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Carolly Erickson is the bestselling author of many distinguished works of nonfiction and a series of historical entertainments, blending fact and invention. She lives in Hawaii.

Customer Reviews

It has very little historical facts and this book is fiction.
Jos
I only gave this book 4 stars becuase I found myself skipping a page or two here and there toward the end because I felt things were explained a little too much.
Elizabeth Behring
I highly recommend this book...especially if you are like me and really enjoy historic fiction.
J. Long

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By greenie227 on March 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover Amazon Verified Purchase
I read Erickson's other book about Marie Antoinette, and I know she knows the subject. Why she didn't use her knowledge in this book is beyond me. Instead of giving us insight into things that did happen (adopting a child before she had her own), she creates characters who didn't historically exist. Instead of bringing alive the people who affected the Queen's life, she glossed over relationships and character. The King's brothers tried to take his thrown, the King's aunts tried to sabotage the Queen, the Queen adopted a child then abandoned him, the Queen was accused of relationships with her women friends... but frankly, this "hidden diary" is as vacuous as critics said Marie Antoinette was. Highly disappointing from Carolly Erickson. Fragmented and strangely distancing from the subject.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By ACM83 on February 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When I saw this book at the store I was immediately intrigued. As an avid reader about this time in French history, I had high hopes for this novel. I was profoundly disappointed. It is, unfortunately, a weak book worsened by a confused structure. This work of historical fiction is filled with a blatant disregard for history. Although Erickson attempts to avoid the issue by saying this is a work of fiction, I feel that if you choose a historical figure as the subject of a `fictional account', there is still some responsibility to write within the realm of well known history. What is entertaining about reading historical fiction is that the author takes the known history of a subject and frames that within a shell of fiction. This fiction can be used to fill in gaps or perhaps give an alternate view of a certain life or event but should still remain true to its historical root. There is a very real difference between historical fiction and the historical invention found in this novel. I do realize that there are limitations when writing about the personal feelings of a subject who left no diary or memoir, but come on! There are several parts of the story that are pure fabrication (Trip to Sweden, The Hapsburg Sun, Eric) while some of the most important events in Marie Antoinette's real life (i.e., Affair of the Necklace, her trial) are excluded from the story altogether.

Bottom Line: The worst problem with this book is that Erickson's Marie Antoinette is just not a believable character. The real life story of Marie Antoinette needs no tawdry and pointless supplements to be entertaining. It is full of enough drama and tragedy to stand wholly on its own; any author worth her salt should have recognized that.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Justice on October 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Before I write my review I will just give a disclaimer, which is that I enjoyed this book and you probably will too. It was entertaining. You will particularly enjoy it if you don't know anything about Marie Antoinette. I already knew all this stuff and still thought it was fun. If it's all new to you, you will like the dishy and accurate details of, e.g., the King's inability to consummate the royal marriage for seven whole years. Great stuff, very dishy, and the author knows how to write a page turner. So, on that level I say go buy it. It gave me some hours of fun. Although, you might find it downright insane that the Diamond Necklace Affair, one of the most infamous court scandals of the 1780s and the one believed to have played a major role in fatally defaming Marie Antoinette, was not mentioned at all! Not once! It was important enough to be a recent movie with 2 time oscar winner Hillary Swank, but this author decided not to include a single mention of it.

So, on another, more deeper level, I'm actually a historian so I have to say that this kind of friviolous, uninformative and selective-omission type writing irritates me to a degree. We already know so much about this woman, and while I do not believe she deserved her fate (I'm against the death penalty period!) I think she is a poor subject for literature. It's interesting that such an ordinary man (Louis the Last) and woman (Widow Capet) with such uninspiring personalities would end up being thrown into such a situation by an accident of fate, but that only goes so far.

After awhile, when you realize there is real history of import out there, you have to wonder why there are thousands upon thousands of books about Marie Antoinette. It's very elitist.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By NSKappler on June 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
Erickson's main objective (rather than argument) was to imaginatively elaborate on the actual lives of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI. Erickson invented dialogue and characters. Entries into the journal recited creative dialogue and the deeply personal thoughts of Marie Antoinette. The characters that were created further transformed this book into a spellbinding read. The invented characters of Amelie, Erick, and Sophie enriched the read by evoking emotions from Marie Antoinette, such as lust, love, and hatred.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
I particularly enjoyed the diary format of The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette. It illustrated the hypothetical Marie's state of mind from her early teens up to her death by guillotine and made for a quick, entertaining read.

Author Carolly Erickson makes it clear that this is a work of fiction, not fact, but her attention to historical detail, embellished by her beautifully drawn characterizations of Marie, Louie and Axel Ferson captures every nuance of their convoluted personal relationships. The reader occasionally finds themselves feeling some sympathy Marie, the mother, as well as for the weak King Louis XVI, since it was never his desire to ascend the throne. One does wonder why he and Marie ignored the Parisian storm that was building for a dozen or more years until it became the violent hurricane known as the French Revolution. (I suppose since the outcome of the story had already been written by history, the author chose to explore the logical steps that would culminate with a trip to the guillotine).

Cheers to Ms. Erickson for her imaginative, enthralling chronicle. One can almost believe this diary was actually committed to paper by the woman who - in reality - - was much too busy living to ever have the time or inclination to pen this journal.
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