by Carolly Erickson

September 2005
ISBN: 0-312-33708-6
Reviewer Graphic Button St. Martin`s Press

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette is a fictional account of the oft-maligned royal. It is, at times, sad to read the naÔve passages of the younger Marie for the reader knows the end of her story. Author Carolly Erickson gives readers a glimpse into what might have been.

The journal began as a punishment for the then ArchDuchess, Maria Antonia, called Antoinette. The instructions given by the priest were to write down her sins, ponder them, and pray for forgiveness. Through this intimate portrayal the reader is allowed to observe a life filled with sorrow. From the death of a dear sister, a first kiss, to a marriage agreement that resembled the purchasing of livestock.

Her marriage would protect Austria from Prussia. Love did not enter into the decision. In the journal we see a wife making the best of her situation. Due to a deformity and the fear of surgery, Louis is physically unable to consummate the marriage for many years. Though she fell in love with a Swedish diplomat Marie's loyalty to her husband was not altogether dishonored. Marie treated him as a king and not the immature youth that he was. She tried her best to help him whenever possible. Louis entreated Marie to attend meetings on his behalf.

Extravagance had always been a part of Marieís life. She was born noble, going from her parentís palace into the palace of the king of France. But during her dealings in politics Marie was confronted with the reality of poverty. Her heart was torn by the needs of the people and she wished to do something about it. She wanted to sell the illustrious Hapsburg Sun, a jewel from Austria. Marie was angry when she found that Louis had already sold the Hapsburg Sun to pay his debts. The royal administrators assured Marie that the poor were too ignorant to live any other way and forcing them to try would be cruel and inhumane. She continued to live the only way she knew how, in luxury. All the while gossip was rife in the streets of France. Ugly rumors about Marie multiplied every second of every day. The publicís hatred grew into a formidable monster seeking to end the reign of King Louis and Queen Marie Antoinette.

Ms. Erickson has brought the fascinating Marie Antoinette to a level rarely provided to readers. The sovereign Marie is not the apathetic figure mistakenly known to have uttered those words, ďLet them eat cake.Ē Instead we are shown an ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances doing the best she knows how. The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette is a fantastic beginning in fiction for author Carolly Erickson.

Reviewed in November 2005 by Rho.

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