Thursday, October 10, 2013

HFVBT: Review of Confessions of Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey

Confessions of Marie Antoinette

by Juliet Grey

Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Ballantine Books
Paperback; 464p
ISBN: 0345523903

Confessions of Marie Antoinette, the riveting and sweeping final novel in Juliet Grey’s trilogy on the life of the legendary French queen, blends rich historical detail with searing drama, bringing to life the early years of the French Revolution and the doomed royal family’s final days.

Versailles, 1789. As the burgeoning rebellion reaches the palace gates, Marie Antoinette finds her privileged and peaceful life swiftly upended by violence. Once her loyal subjects, the people of France now seek to overthrow the crown, placing the heirs of the Bourbon dynasty in mortal peril.

Displaced to the Tuileries Palace in Paris, the royal family is propelled into the heart of the Revolution. There, despite a few staunch allies, they are surrounded by cunning spies and vicious enemies. Yet despite the political and personal threats against her, Marie Antoinette remains above all a devoted wife and mother, standing steadfastly by her husband, Louis XVI, and protecting their young son and daughter. And though the queen and her family try to flee, and she secretly attempts to arrange their rescue from the clutches of the Revolution, they cannot outrun the dangers encircling them, or escape their shocking fate.

About the Author
Juliet Grey is the author of Becoming Marie Antoinette and Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow. She has extensively researched European royalty and is a particular devotee of Marie Antoinette, as well as a classically trained professional actress with numerous portrayals of virgins, vixens, and villainesses to her credit. She and her husband divide their time between New York City and southern Vermont. 
For more information please visit  You can also find Juliet Grey on Facebook.

My thoughts
As the third novel in a trilogy the Confessions of Marie Antoinette concludes a series, but also must come to the expected tragic end to a woman this reader finds enchanting.   I remember worrying over the young Marie in Grey's first of the series Becoming Marie Antoinette, and then feeling the heartbreak of her loveless marriage, the loss of her son and her happiness with Axel van Fersen of the trilogy's second installment, Days Of Splendor, Days of Sorrow.  I could only do a woman I admire and respect justice by following her to the end, the third and final in the trilogy, Confessions of Marie Antoinette

I believe Grey's depiction of Marie Antoinette to be one of the most accurate to date.  I enjoy Grey's sharing of Marie's inner thoughts, her disgust with the hypocrisy of the male courtiers, her thinking of what her dear Maman would say or do if faced with such and her finding humor that much of the fashions she brought from Austria that were mocked or deemed too expensive were suddenly, at the end, in fashion.

The reader finds Marie Antoinette in 1789 on a random October day as she takes what is to be her last walk through her beloved Trianon gardens.  Her walk that is to be the last peace her life ever knows.  Unknown at the time these days begin the "October Days" when a large mob, comprised mainly of Parisian women, marched on the palace of Versailles. Their attack on the palace ultimately led to the claiming of the royal family, who were taken back to Paris in triumph. 

I was surprised to find introduced, especially amidst the violent storming of Versailles, that Grey introduced a new character into the novel.  Perhaps Grey chose to include Louison Chabry, a young woman and a typical French citizen, to give the reader a counter perspective to the events effecting Marie Antoinette and therefore present a more balanced historical account.  However, I found her unnecessary to the narrative and at times an annoying distraction, but not so much so that her inclusion detracted from novel on the whole.

The Royal Family, now housed in the Tuileries Palace under guard Marie observes the Parisians revel in their supposed freedoms and even finds herself, her husband and her children are accessible to the "citizens" at all times.  Their guards/jailers give their security little regard and in one of the novels more poignant moments the Tuileries is stormed by a mob seeking out the king and queen. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are each forced to face the mob alone, but Marie is caught with a table separating her from her beloved children and Grey masterfully describes this intense emotional drama with rich descriptive detail and successfully shows another of Marie's many moments of supreme courage.

A reader of the trilogy will appreciate Grey's development of Marie Antoinette's character throughout the three installments and in Confessions of Marie Antoinette the reader is able to appreciate the woman she has become.  Marie Antoinette is courageous, intelligent, determined, fiercely loyal and truly lovingly motherly to her children.  She has grown into a fine woman and a regal Queen.  A woman the French should have been proud to call their own.

I found Confessions of Marie Antoinette an appropriate and strong finale to Grey's trilogy and this reader found that while I knew the story I still found new and even at times innovative perspectives into this truly unforgettable woman.  Grey gives us a very complicated, vulnerable and most importantly a very human Marie Antoinette and without a doubt does her memory a supreme justice.

Twitter hashtag: #ConfessionsofMATour

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