Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette
Prices for book: Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette
Book ISBN: 9780060825409
Author(s): Sena Jeter Naslund
Document type: Trade Paper
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Exquisite Prose and a Vivid Historical Portrait
From the very beginning of this wonderful novel, it is clear that Sena Jeter Naslund intends to bedazzle her readers with exquisite prose in this first-person fictionalization of Marie Antoinette's journey from new princess of France to her beheading at the guillotine of the French Revolution. And she succeeds! One of the impressive things about Naslund as a writer is that she can write in very different styles. I had previously read and enjoyed Naslund's "Ahab's Wife" and expected something similar, but her writing in "Abundance" is much more flamboyant. Additionally, the self-centered character of Marie Antoinette is diametrically opposite to that of Una Ahab.
While Marie Antoinette clearly had serious character flaws, Naslund is able to paint a mostly positive and sympathetic portrait of her. Rather than coming across as uncaring about her people, Marie Antoinette comes across as somebody who does care but can't see a connection between their suffering and the policies of the French monarchy or her own excessive spending on lavish clothes and parties. As described by Naslund, Marie Antoinette was a religious person who cared about her husband, family, and friends; while she was initially quite shallow, it is also true that she was quite young and thrust into difficult circumstances including a weak husband unable to consummate their marriage for several years and a lonely life apart from her Austrian family. By the end of the novel, she has grown deeper and will even impress you with her bravery in the face of death. While Marie Antoinette's blindness was irritating at times, this appears to be who she was and is not Naslund's fault.
Overall, I found this a very rewarding novel full of beautiful writing. It also made me care more about Marie Antoinette than I had expected based on the standard version of Marie Antoinette and her "Let them eat cake" quote (which it turns out she never said). While she did nothing to help her people, she was not the villainess that history often paints her as.
Roger Berlind (Amazon.com)
great POV from Toinette
This book depicts a great point of view from Marie Antoinette - you never forget how shallow yet innocent she truly was. This is not a history book and it does not give detail to the fall of the monarch. It revolves completely around her life events which does make the story drag a bit in places, but I think it is supposed to. After all, she had nothing better to do but be beautiful and have fun and after a while, that paints the perfect picture of monotony.
C. P. Penland (Amazon.com)
An Abundance of Delight
The first tug of personal interest in the history of Marie Antoinette arrived with director Sophia Coppola's innovated film interpretation. As a lover of history, this time period in particular has always held weight on my bookshelves. The novel Abundance gives a special touch as a different perspective to what other historical accounts have provided. If you are looking for more than a peek into the last French Queen's mind, this novel is a treat for any avid reader. Poignant and informative, it is a delight such as the very sweets Marie Antoinette herself preferred.
A Sympathetic Portrait
This stunning portrait of Marie Antoinette does much to overturn the legends that have been associated with her name for so long. Marie Antoinette was sent as a young girl of 14 to the court of Louis XV of France, to cement the alliance between Austria and France. She found herself stripped (literally) of everything associated with her home country, and dropped into the lavish court of Versailles. She was married to the hapless Dauphin, portrayed as an odd young man more interested in hunting, reading and mechanical toys than his lovely Queen or the affairs of state. In Naslund's view, Marie was a charming young woman with the grit and backbone of her famous mother, Maria Theresa of Austria. But events conspired to turn her into a hated woman in France. Through no fault of her own, she failed to produce an heir for eight years after her marriage, and in those lonely times, she turned to gaming and frippery to assuage her sorrow and loneliness. According to Naslund, she and the King were sensitive to the poverty and hardship in the country, but were in a sense captives of the nobility who refused to agree to be taxed while the country sank into bankruptcy. We know the sad ending, but somehow Naslund writes with an immediacy and passion that turns this book into a page turner nonetheless.
Naslund did a great deal of research, and based her novel's structure on the voluminous correspondence between Marie and her mother. The letters reveal two women striving to fulfill the duty they believed was given to them by God--to rule. This novel gave me new appreciation for the notion of Divine Right of Kings. Royalty had positions of great power but perhaps even greater responsibility. That two clueless teenagers failed in those responsibilities should not surprise. I highly recommend this book!
J. Marren (Amazon.com)
The traumatic demise of historic women such as Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots, and Marie Antoinette have captured the imagination and interest of centuries since. Myths have distorted facts and left us with a hungry, voyeuristic curiosity to learn "what really happened." Sena Jeter Naslund has written a literary treat for those with such appetites with her novel, "Abundance."
Naslund dishes out the personal thoughts and feelings of Marie Antoinette from her early teen years in Austria until her death in Paris. "Toinette" confides to the reader and provides luscious descriptions of the ludicrous opulence she loses herself in while escaping her confusion and disappointment about her early marital years with her impotent young husband. Naslund's representation of Antoinette is believable; one can easily swallow this version of how a naive and immature Princess could so easily be enamored with creating a fairy-tale world in the gardens of Versailles while the country she ruled struggled with starvation and squalor.
Toinette matures with motherhood and the love of the Swedish Count von Fersen. She is a loving and indulgent mother, and a consummate consort to the King. Unfortunately she does not voice her thoughts or wishes on political matters to him after Mercy, her Austrian adviser, is called away in the early days of the Revolution. The reader feels her fear, anxiety, pain and ultimately numbness as she watches her world crumble and realizes she is the scapegoat for the nation and the fuel to feed the murderous hatred of the masses.
Naslund found the right balance of detail, candor and humanity to recreate the final days of the court of Versailles and the first years of the Reign of Terror. After a slow beginning, the novel is engaging and absorbing. This is a very enjoyable work of historical fiction.
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