Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Bad Queen Rules and Instructions for Marie Antoinette by Carolyn Meyer

This latest addition to Ms. Meyer's Young Royals Series of historical novels about the lives of famous royal women chronicles the life of Marie Antoinette. From her carefree days as an archduchess at the Austrian court, overseen by an overly indulgent governess who thinks being pretty and charming and able to dance and embroider exquisitely are all the skills Antoinette will ever need to get through life, to the grandeur of Versailles as the wife of The Dauphin later King Louis XVI, it is a life governed by rules and regulations, many of which the rebellious young woman recklessly flouts.

When her marriage remains unconsummated for many years, the finger of blame is levelled at Marie Antoinette, and she tries to console herself by spending vast sums of money on extravagant gowns, flamboyant towering hairstyles, diamonds, masked balls, and gambling. Even after she gives birth to four children the lavish spending continues, though by then it is channeled in various remodeling, redecorating, and building projects centered around the Petit Trianon and her idyllic farm Le Hameau where the cracks are painted onto the walls to give them a quaint, rustic touch. But when reality finally slaps her in the face and, with France teetering the brink of bankruptcy, she tries to economize, it is too little too late, and she is soon engulfed in the flames of the French Revolution.

In my opinion, this would be an excellent book to introduce young girls to the life of Marie Antoinette. It is filled to the brim with drama and romance when Count Axel von Fersen, the debonair Swede, comes onto the scene, although it is a chaste romance as in the pages of this novel Antoinette loyally honors her marriage vows.

The book does have a serious weakness though, in my opinion, when after the royal family are apprehended at Varennes while trying to flee, Marie Antoinette decides that she no longer has the heart to continue writing in her journal and turns the task over to her young daughter, Madame Royale. I think this would have been a much stronger book if Marie Antoinette had continued to tell her own story in her own words right up to her fatal rendezvous with the guillotine. Nonetheless, it is from start to finish an enjoyable and interesting read.

1 comment:

librarypat said...

I have read several of the books in this series and they are all well done. She does a good job of writing in a style and perspective that young women can relate to.