CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 1 . . . . September 8, 2000
May 17, 1770At the age of 13, the Archduchess Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna, daughter of Maria Theresa of Habsburg, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Nations, and Emperor Francis of Lorraine, was betrothed to the Dauphin of France, Louis Auguste, the future King Louis the XVI of France. Kathryn Lasky's story of Marie Antoinette, as she became known after her marriage, begins on January 1, 1769 and ends on January 1, 1771. During this time period, Marie Antoinette's life changed dramatically as she moved from Vienna, with its high moral code and relatively speaking simple lifestyle, to the excess and opulence of the Court of Versailles.
The voice that Lasky gives Marie Antoinette is authentic and direct. Lasky portrays the metamorphosis of child to monarch in a believable manner without glossing over the flaws and sensitive issues. Even if the reader knows the outcome of the courtship of the Austrian and French monarchies, the reader is engaged and impelled to keep turning the pages.
The look at the role of women in history is fascinating. Marie Antoinette's mother, Maria Theresa of Habsburg, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Nations, was a powerful female ruler at a time when few of them existed. She was the mother of 13 children, and, as the family motto, "Others make war, but thou, oh happy Austria, make marriages," reveals, her goal was to marry them into influential aristocratic families to build the Austrian empire.
The volume is attractively bound with a painting of Marie Antoinette on the front cover and gold edging on the pages. In addition to the fictionalized journal entries, the book it contains: an epilogue, a historical note, a family tree, reproductions of historical artwork, and a note about the author. The appendices would have been enhanced by the inclusion of a "further reading" list.
Not only is this an interesting look at a fascinating time in history, but it is an absorbing, entertaining read, independent of the subject matter.
Ruth Scales McMahon is a Storyteller and Library Consultant who first fell in love with biographies of famous queens in elementary school when she read one about Queen Elizabeth II.
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