Abundance : a novel of Marie Antoinette

by Naslund, Sena Jeter.

Format: Print Book 2006
Availability: Available at 6 Libraries 6 of 7 copies
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"Like everyone, I am born naked."

With this opening line of Naslund's compelling new novel, a very human Marie Antoinette invites readers to live her story as she herself experiences it. From the lush gardens of Versailles to the lights and gaiety of Paris, the verdant countryside of France, and finally the stark and terrifying isolation of a prison cell, the young queen's life is joyful, poignant, and harrowing by turns. As her world of unprecedented royal splendor crumbles, the charming Marie Antoinette matures into a heroine of inspiring stature, one whose nobility arises not from the circumstance of her birth but from her courageous spirit.

Marie Antoinette was a child of fourteen when her mother, the Empress of Austria, arranged for her to leave her family and her country to become the wife of the fifteen-year-old Dauphin, the future King of France. Coming of age in the most public of arenas, the young queen embraces her new family and the French people, and she is embraced in return. Eager to be a good wife and strong queen, she shows her new husband nothing but love and encouragement, though he repeatedly fails to consummate their marriage and in doing so, fails to give her the thing she--and the people of France--desire most: a child and an heir to the throne.

Deeply disappointed and isolated in her own intimate circle apart from the social life of the court, the queen allows herself to remain ignorant of the country's growing economic and political crises. She entrusts her soul to her women friends, her music teacher, her hairdresser, the ambassador from Austria, and a certain Swedish count so handsome that admirers label him "the Picture." When her innocent and well-chaperoned pilgrimage to watch the sun rise is viciously misrepresented in satiric pamphlets as a drunken orgy, the people begin to turn against her. Poor harvests, bitter winters, war debts, and poverty precipitate rebellion and revenge as the royal family and many nobles are caught up in a murderous time known as "the Terror."

With penetrant insight into new historical scholarship and with wondrous narrative skill, Naslund offers an intimate, fresh, and dramatic re-creation of this compelling woman that goes beyond popular myth. Abundance reveals a compassionate and spontaneous Marie Antoinette who rejected the formality and rigid protocol of the court; an enchanting and tenderhearted outsider who was loved by her adopted homeland and people until she became the target of revolutionary cruelty and violence; a dethroned queen whose depth of character sustained her in even the worst of times.

Once again, Sena Jeter Naslund has shed new light on an important moment of historical change and made that time as real to us as the one we are living now. Exquisitely detailed, beautifully written, heartbreaking and powerful, Abundance is a novel that is impossible to put down.

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "The author of the ambitious Ahab's Wife0 (1999) has tackled another fictional challenge: the life of Marie Antoinette from her "birth as a citizen of France" at age 14 to her execution, told from her own point of view. But how to be true to what we know about the queen, who, though her reputation for cluelessness is not entirely deserved, was not exactly a powerhouse of intellect and insight; and at the same time make her interesting enough as a narrator to engage the reader for more than 500 pages? Naslund solves this problem by endowing Marie Antoinette with an artist's sensibility, and through her eyes the French court and its extraordinary artifice and luxury come alive. At the same time, this pampered queen is intensely human in her epistolary relationship with her overbearing mother, her less-than-satisfying marriage (unconsummated for seven years), her devotion to friends and family, and her tragic end. Adding to the complexity of the portrait is the way Naslund employs her setting. Carefully researched details about such things as the decor at Versailles lend verisimilitude but also often serve as symbolic motifs. The reputation of a queen once scorned for her frivolity has undergone a rehabilitation lately, exemplified by Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette: A Journey 0 (2001), 0 and Naslund's portrayal is firmly in that camp. Readers of serious historical fiction will revel in it. --Mary Ellen Quinn Copyright 2006 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly 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 naif 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Marie Antoinette, -- Queen, consort of Louis XVI, King of France, -- 1755-1793 -- Fiction.
Publisher New York :William Morrow,2006
Edition 1st ed.
Language English
Description xiv, 545 pages ; 24 cm
ISBN 0060825391 (acid-free paper)
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