Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book review: The Bad Queen by Carolyn Meyer

The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette by Carolyn Meyer (Published by Harcourt, April 12, 2010)

Marie-Antoinette, known as Antonia as a child, grew up as the youngest daughter of Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, a mother who demanded no less than perfection and dedicated herself to making politically advantageous marriages for her many children. In 1768, the year Antonia turns thirteen, her mother determines to marry her off to Louis-Auguste, the heir to the throne of France, who is one year older than Antonia. From that day forward, everything changes for her. Everything must be perfect - she must look perfect, learn to speak French perfectly, and perfectly memorize the many tedious rules of etiquette practiced at the French court. Now more than ever, her life is no longer her own.

After much tedious education and perfection of her looks, Antonia finally sets off to marry Louis-Auguste in 1770. She must leave behind everything of her former life and give up her Austrian identity, including her name - she is now to be known by her new French name, Marie-Antoinette. At the court of Versailles, she is miserable. She feels unwelcome by many who do not want their future queen to be Austrian, and the many rules that govern her every action at court are stifling. In addition, her marriage is unhappy and she fears she might not produce an heir to the throne and be sent home in disgrace. Determined to at least be happy in some way, she throws caution to the wind, disregards the rules of court life, and decides to live a life of luxury, parties, and entertainments - angering the people of France, who suffer from increasing poverty.

The Bad Queen is a fascinating look at the life of Marie-Antoinette from when she is a young teenager, through the French Revolution, when her own daughter, Marie-Therese, concludes her tragic story. It paints a sympathetic portrait of Marie-Antoinette, and shows how she was not truly a bad or evil person, but simply a girl who at far too young an age was married to a boy who had not been prepared to be a king, leading to poor choices that ultimately caused their downfall. I highly recommend this book, and the other Young Royals books, to readers who enjoy young adult historical fiction.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

3 comments:

MissAttitude said...

I think the movie also helped make Marie Antoinette more sympathetic (Kristin Dunst was an interesting choice, I didn't hate her in the role but something didn't see, quite right. But at the same time, the actress and the book both talk about/show a young woman and I think we tend to forget that Marie Antoinette was really quite young when she became queen of france.

I love the Young Royals series and I intend on reading this book :) I can't wait to read what Ms. Meyer comes up with next (Cleopatra!)

Shweta said...

I am reading this book currently and I am really enjoying the way the story is unfolding. Delightful book.Loved your review

Anonymous said...

I read this book in July and it was amazing. I haven't seen the movie yet but I can't wait to. The book really made me think about Marie Antoinette and her life. I can't imagine going to a different country, with no one you know, marrying a total stranger, and having to be perfect all the time. Ever since i read this book I've loved everything historical fiction.

 
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