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Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova (Luxury Reading)
Spanning fifteen years in the life of Marie Antoinette, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey picks up where Becoming Marie Antoinette left off. If you have not read the first book in this trilogy, don’t despair. Although I hear the first book is very enjoyable and definitely worth a look, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow easily stands on its own.
In 1774, eighteen-year-old Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. The extravagance of the French court is in sharp contrast to her more rigid upbringing – a fact often pointed out in her mother’s letters. Privately, the young queen yearns to bear a child – an heir to the Bourbon dynasty – and to be a trusted confidante to her husband in the affairs of the state. But, as the couple fails to consummate their union after many years of marriage and Louis makes it clear that a wife has no role in the running of the country, Marie Antoinette begins to bristle against the confines of her new life. Her boredom and discontent find an easy outlet in elaborate gowns, lavish parties and gambling – entertainments others are more than happy to provide and participate in, at a price.
Juliet Grey expertly leads the readers through the early years of Marie Antoinette’s reign, to her long-awaited motherhood, her passionate affair with the Swedish military attache Axel von Fersen and much more. Grey leaves no detail to chance and combines impeccable research with an easy and enjoyable writing style.
I have read about Marie Antoinette before, but this was the first time that I felt that she was presented as a human being, rather than a one dimensional character. She indulged herself and spent money all too freely, feeding the discontent of the French citizens. But, she was just an eighteen-year-old girl, eager for joys – like children and a loving marriage – that often alluded her. She tried to rise above the rumors with one hand while feeding these same rumors with the other, and often trusted people that were only there for the fun ride. It’s these dueling characteristics that Grey gets across exceptionally well, making the reader see that Marie Antoinette was not a villain, nor was she perfect; she was flawed and human like the rest of us.
About the author
Juliet Grey is the author of Becoming Marie Antoinette. She has extensively researched European royalty and is a particular devotee of Marie Antoinette, as well as a classically trained professional actress with numerous portrayals of virgins, vixens, and villainesses to her credit. She and her husband divide their time between New York City and southern Vermont.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.