Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Marie Antoinette-The Journey by Antonia Fraser

Title: Marie Antoinette-The Journey
Author: Antonia Fraser
Pages: 544
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0385489498
Publisher: Anchor Books/2002

Genre: Non-fiction/Historical

What led me to pick up this book:

I was always interested to know about Marie Antoinette who is much vilified and about the French Revolution.

Summarizing the plot:

Marie was born into the large Hapsburg family and married off before puberty to Louis, Dauphin of France and later Louis XVI. Other key players in the story of Marie Antoinette include Maria Teresa, her domineering mother; Louis XVI, who was not cut out for the throne of France; her children, all but one of whom died in childhood; and Count Fersen, family friend and Marie Antoinette's lover for many years. Marie Antoinette was either greatly admired or intensely loathed. More significantly, however, this woman was clearly defamed. She had her faults like most but surely, anyone who has a bit of compassion could accept that she woman deserved the harsh treatment she received and the way she was put through abject humiliations.

What I liked most about the book:

Antonia Fraser's book is historically fascinating, well written and researched. It also is a very moving and unforgettable story. One will never think of Marie Antoinette again without feeling acutely the last sad and proud moments of her life. One can also intensely feel how tragically and wrongly, history has judged her. The tragedy of her life is a haunting one that does not go away.

What I liked least:

At some points, Fraser appears to be biased towards Marie Antoinette. She is not objective at all.

What I thought of the main character:

Antoinette appears, in spite of her faults, to have been largely a caring and kind-hearted (if not overly intelligent) woman. Nevertheless, she had the ill fortune of being by accident of birth of royal blood and, by the manoeuvrings of an overbearing mother, queen consort to the king of France at a time when the French court was, in spirit, a sumptuous fishbowl. As a result, Antoinette had the added misfortune of being at the mercy of liberalists who are intent on her destruction. With reference to Louis XVI, Fraser makes a comment equally applicable to Antoinette: She is hated, not for what she did, but for who she was.

Other particularly interesting characters:

Her domineering mother, Maria Teresa and family friend/lover for many years, Count Fersen.

Sharing a quote from the book:

"Lanterns illuminated the walls of the Temple when the royal party arrived, as though for a public festival, and a great crowd of people chanted 'Long live the nation!' That cry at least was a familiar one. More sinister was the gleeful Marseilles chant of the guards: `Madame goes up into her Tower, when will she come down again?"

Sharing a favorite scene from the book:

One of my favourite occurrences in this book was when the Queen was forced to live in the tower, before her death. Though this was a quite sinister event, Antonia Fraser did an excellent job of describing the arrival of the royal party, and their miserable life in the tower.

Feelings after finishing the book:

This is not a book for those who want light reading--yet its rewards are deep for those who have a love of history and want to understand the human condition, both for its good and bad attributes. The book is a masterpiece at showing how people are products of their times, and yet because of historical events move on to personal achievements.

I found the book to be gripping, eye opening, informative and insightful, making it a pleasure to read. Most importantly, I came away from the book with not only a greater knowledge and understanding of one of the most famous women in history, but a much deeper understanding of the French Revolution and