Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"...as a girl, about to descend a snowy slope, I seemed to hear advice: Hold on tight, Marie. It seemed to come from the mountains themselves,

or from the future.”

In my continuing quest to learn about all things Marie Antoinette i picked up Abundance: a novel of Marie Antoinette, a rather richly detailed 545 page book by Sena Jeter Naslund. Naslund writes with a very obvious sympathy towards Marie Antoinette and at times it was hard to believe M.A.’s absolute goodness (even tho she did come across as quite shallow~perhaps more interested in politics and learning than i had previously thought~yet she still loathes reading.) Most of the story is told in M.A.’s own voice, but it also includes letters exchanged between M.A. and her mother (Maria Theresa, Royal Empress of Austria) and between M.A. and her brother, Joseph II (these letters were apparent constructed from the historical record). Nalund seems to have most of her details quite close to the truth (from whatever i know on the subject, and haven’t we already established that that isn’t much?~but her reliance on resources contemporary to the time seem to bear the assumption out~tho Naslund does blame the infamous “let them eat cake” line on the wife of Louis XIV when the line is probably entirely apocryphal and not attributable to anyone, in addition to not having the traditional meaning) but both a little more embellishment and a little less depth of detail might have helped (i’m not sure the length of the book was entirely warranted~Naslund turns phrases well enough that just as much could be said with less).

Perhaps captive animals do not see beyond the grilles of their menageries.”

M.A. led a sheltered life and she was raised to expect the privileges she received (she did try to make reforms to simplify things in court but she shows a real lack of understanding of how things really are for the peasantry and how her extravagances effect them or how truly ineffective her attempted efforts at helping that peasantry are~tho listening to her mother a tad more might have behooved her, i’m not sure it would have saved her...) She is truly surprised and confused by when the tide of public opinion turns against her but Naslund has her bear it rather gracefully, she believes her duty is to the people of France (as well as her children) even if she has little idea how to serve those needs. I felt it was quite a realistic portrayal of someone of her class, her age, living in the times that she did.

I find my mind has become a dense, opaque cloud of confusion. And what has become of the part of me that I mean when I say “I”? I am lost in a fog, I have little sense of who I am. But I know I am not what they imply.”

How can I play my role—that is to say—how can one maintain her identity, without the proper costume?”

Even though it wasn’t a terribly tedious read, it did get somewhat repetitive in some places and i didn’t feel like i needed to hear quite so much of the minute goings on of almost everyday of her life (or so it sometimes felt). I finally lost my sense of trudging along (the novel did just enough to keep me interested) once M.A. was imprisoned and began her inevitable path toward the guillotine. I was definitely sad to see her go but i don’t believe i would have enjoyed life in the eighteenth century French court~just a bit of a bore~no matter how opulent and decadent it may have been…

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