On the heels of the
soon-to-be released film
of Marie Antoinette's
life, interest in the "let them eat
cake" queen is at an all-time high.
In Naslund's capable hands, she becomes a woman who earns your sympathies. Naslund presents a compassionate portrait, depicting Marie
as a misunderstood child forced to
grow up too fast. Historical fiction should bring people and an era to
life, and that's just what Naslund
does in her imaginative rendering
of a woman, a queen and a world
on the brink of madness.

When 14-year old Austrian princess Maria Antonia arrives in France, she's stripped of everything to be reborn as Marie Antoinette, the wife of the 15-year-old Dauphin, Louis XVI. Marie must change from adolescent into a woman able to lure her young and inexperienced husband to bed. Rumors abound that he can't perform or that she is incapable of attending to his needs. Somehow Marie bears the shame until she gives birth and fulfills the role of mother.

Marie grows into her role, but she's often frustrated at having to fit into the French ideal. We see the excesses of the court and experience her innocence of the real world and the storm of unrest that will mean the end of her life -- an end she goes to with all the dignity of a true queen. (Morrow, Oct., 400 pp., $26.95)
Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin