It is the night before she is to face the guillotine, and Marie Antoinette leaves her personal diary behind to give others a glimpse into her life and thoughts. With her intelligent use of research and creative license, Erickson weaves a fascinating story of a privileged Austrian archduchess thrust into marriage with a clumsy, boorish man plagued by a physical infirmity that makes it impossible for him to make love.

Marie finds herself at Versailles, where intrigue and hedonism rule. She has little idea of what life is like outside the gilded walls of the palace and, though kind and well-meaning, she simply cannot fathom what life is like for the common Frenchman. Erickson allows Marie to discuss her long and passionate affair with Swedish diplomat Axel Ferson, her plan to trick Louis into having an operation that would correct his sexual problem (thus allowing her to give birth to two healthy children), the horrors of the Revolution and her thoughts on her untimely death.

Readers will come away from this book with a far better understanding of one of history's most vilified women, the one beneath the gowns and jewels. Erickson makes Marie someone we can feel compassion for and fills her story with awareness of her heartbreak and the great tragedy of her death. (Oct., 352 pp., $24.95)
Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin