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Friday, October 12, 2012

"Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow" by Juliet Grey

SUMMARY A captivating novel of rich spectacle and royal scandal, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the fateful reign of Marie Antoinette, France’s most legendary and notorious queen.

Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.
From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.

Publisher:  Random House/Ballantine Books
Paperback Edition Pages:  427  Including Reader's Guide
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Author:  Juliet Grey
Discover more here:  http://www.becomingmarie.com


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.            


Lavish in details of Marie Antoinette's elegant court and beautiful attending ladies, this book will whet the appetites of those who love to gather every little crumb about their favorite French queen.  Juliet Grey knows how to tempt the mind's eye with descriptions of Antoinette's glorious hair confections, the glories of her petite little cottage and grounds with its sumptious silks and pastel colorings, and the fabulous games of cards and masquerades. I can never get enough of Marie Antoinette no matter how many times I read about her, but Grey's novel is unique in its storytelling which made it a wonderful read.

"Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow" isn't a fluffy book by any means.  Meaty in historic detail, it casts Marie in her rightful place as the first lady of the French monarchy in a time of social and political unrest in all of Europe and the World.   We are shown the slide rule of Marie's ascent into her political acumen and her steady decend in the minds of the peoples of Paris and France on whole.  A time when queens were meant to be decorative and "quiet," Marie was a show piece!

While she is beautiful and charming on the one hand,  her extravagance and world of material riches makes her the envy of all royalty; infuriating the politicals and the peoples, and making her the most hated of women.  Marie seems boggled by her state.  If there is one critique I have it would be that Ms Grey tends to often make Antoinette a bit light-headed about this problem.  The magnitude is recounted but not discussed by Marie and Louis directly which would have added another dimension, I thought.

From other writings and based on other biographical information, I think Antoinette attempted to be more active in affairs of state earlier on in her reign and more concerned than it seemed in this novel. She seems too simpering where Louis is concerned and with regard to Austria than I believe she was in fact.  But, I was pleased to see her grow in bravery of heart and mind as the novel progressed.  One of the things we can admire most about Marie Antoinette is that she was not only a creative and brilliant artist of self and surroundings, but she was a shrewd woman, and mother of her children and country.  Juliet Grey gave us all the variations of this gorgeous and talented woman.

I walked the halls and gardens with Marie Antoinette and her ladies in waiting as I read.  I saw the beautiful gowns and decorations and the delicious foods.  I could see Ben Franklin in his eccentricities at the lavish French monarchs' table!  And, I felt the fear the Queen must have had when she was railed at by the street peoples and rebel women in her own hallways!  How awful to have masked women spit out ugly lies in your face and have no protection from it!  I felt her vulnerabilities at failing to produce children through  no fault of her own.  And, I felt her eventual terror at being trapped by those who wished to harm her (The incident of the Necklace!) and her little family for being rulers of a kingdom in perilous times--times that they inherited.

This is a book historical fiction lovers will die to read!  It's not a light historical fiction, but one that will ignite your memory of the French Revolution and the young Queen who felt the brunt of the blame that really wasn't all hers.  It also will warm your heart as you're reminded of the unconditional love of Louis for his little queen and hers for her children and him.

Second in the series, those of us who read and loved "Becoming Marie Antoinette" will be hard put to wait for the third book in this one called "The Last October Sky," which is due out in 2013!

4 stars for a very good read               Deborah/TheBookishDame

This review is brought to you by:  Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

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I adore this time frame for books! It's one of my favorite!!!! Awesome review, Deb. I love that it has lots of historic detail.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired)

I read Becoming Marie Antoinette and enjoyed it. I love Versailles and that time period. I'm excited to see that this one is out and that it's so good.

2 Kids and Tired Books

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