Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund
When Marie Antoinette is not yet fourteen years old, she leaves home to be married to the Dauphin of France, in fact, she has already been married to him by proxy and a ceremony will come later. She has never met him, but her mother, the empress, desires that all her children be placed in positions of power. Marie was the one lucky enough to be chosen to be the Queen of France.
Marie is of course saddened to leave her family, and she is still very young, but her mother has instilled in her something of a fortitude for political situations. She does marry Louis, but nothing happens. She and Louis become friends, but a problem prevents the marriage from being consummated for seven years. The people of France desire an heir to the throne and demean Marie for not producing one.
While she is still young, Louis’ grandfather dies and Louis becomes king, making Marie queen, at a very young age. Marie learns more as time goes on, but is still very naive of the wider world. Time goes on and Marie is able to have children, but the political atmosphere in France changes.
The peasants are tired of being peasants. They’re tired of the idea of nobility. They want revolution, just as the people of the United States had their revolution. They want to get rid of the old ideas and bring in new ideas. They want democracy. Political turmoil is soon everywhere. Nasty rumors and slander are spread about Marie. She is seen as the cause to the whole thing, when in reality, she was only an innocent bystander in the whole thing, but the people of France needed someone to blame.
Marie’s husband is beheaded by Guillotine, soon Marie follows after being separated from her only two remaining children and placed in a filthy prison. The people of France end up with the head of Marie Antoinette as well as the head of her husband.
What I liked
I love learning more about history and this is just another view of a story I already know. I already know about Marie Antoinette and her very unfortunate fate. It’s always interesting to see how people act in various situations in life. In a revolution, who stays loyal and who goes with the people?
I think books like this, that give humanity to historical figures, are important because these people weren’t just statues in history, they were living, breathing people who suffered when society turned on them or deemed them to be monsters, when in reality, they were no more of a monster than anyone else, possibly even less so. Those people you read about in history class were real and they did suffer in various manners. That somewhat peachy story you may read about the “glorious revolution” does not take into account all the human suffering involved.
What I didn’t like
Marie Antoinette was a scapegoat, period. There is no way around it. She was not a Devil. She did not condemn peasants to eat cake. She was murdered by blood thirsty revolutionaries. Murdered. Not executed, murdered. Execution implies that one has done something wrong. When you take a life for no crime, it’s murder. Yes, there were slandered crimes, but this woman had done nothing but play the role she was supposed to play. She married the Dauphin, became queen, and bore children to continue the royal house of France. She did not single-highhandedly bring down a country into bankruptcy, that had already been years in the making by the way.
This poor woman. This poor family. The entire family died, except Marie Therese, because the people of France demanded their deaths. Can you imagine doing nothing to warrant such hatred, but then having your family murdered because of lies about your family?
This is such a sad piece of Earth’s history. How can one family become so hated, for nothing?
Someone owes this entire family an apology.
Do you think there are any modern-day situations in which we are unfairly demonizing individuals or families as a society?
How do you think things would have been different for Marie had she escaped?