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Reviewed by Colleen Turner
Confessions of Marie Antoinette, the final book in Juliet Grey’s trilogy about the life of the famed Queen consort of France, begins with the storming of Versailles on October 5th, 1789 and concludes with Marie Antoinette’s execution on October 16th, 1793. Told mainly through Marie’s point of view, the novel highlights a few of the underlying reasons for the French Revolution, the numerous governmental changes that occurred and the horrifying and inhumane treatment of the royal family, many members of the nobility and those deemed royalists.
Interspersed with Marie’s story is that of Louison Chabry, a young French sculptress who gets caught up in the revolutionary actions of the people and begins to realize that perhaps the hideous actions of the rising men of the new Republic and the blood thirsty populace that seems to follow them blindly are not the solution they need. This added perspective helped give the story a more well rounded feel then if it was told exclusively by Marie Antoinette and also helped drive home the fact that, while many of the poor French people did have legitimate problems that needed to be addressed, the vicious attacks against the monarchy did little to resolve these issues.
While it is entirely possible to read Confessions of Marie Antoinette without reading the first two books in the trilogy, as I did, I would recommend reading the series in order. Not knowing that much about Marie Antoinette’s history, starting with this final book made me feel slightly lost as to what had transpired before the storming of Versailles and why the people felt so vehemently that all their issues were a result of Marie Antoinette’s actions. To see the utter hatred towards the royal family and the all consuming need to destroy them, it was hard to justify that against the royal family’s humanity as seen through Marie’s story.
The Marie that is presented in Confessions of Marie Antoinette is not perfect but is a loving and devoted mother, a wife that is determined to stand by her husband even when his indecision might put her own life in danger and a Queen that genuinely cares about her people. There were times when the constant bombardment and the various failed escapes began to feel redundant, but the fact is this is more an issue with the history and not the writing at all. There is a lot of information discussed throughout the book and it can be hard to keep all the people and changes in check but it is easy to see the vast amount of research that went into the story and that Ms. Grey did an extraordinary job staying true to the facts of this much maligned woman. Included in the back of the book is an extensive reader’s guide that gave more insight into the history and the people who lived after Marie Antoinette, which I found very enjoyable.
All this being said, I will definitely go back and read the first two books in this series. Marie Antoinette is a fascinating true character from history and Ms. Grey does an exceptional job of bringing her story to life.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.