Marie Antoinette's dramatic life-story continues to arouse mixed emotions. To many people, she is still 'la reine mechante', whose extravagance and frivolity helped to bring down the French monarchy; her indifference to popular suffering epitomised by the (apocryphal) words: 'let them eat cake'. Others are equally passionate in her defence: to them, she is a victim of misogyny.
In this biography Antonia Fraser examines her influence over the king, Louis XVI, the accusations and sexual slurs made against her, her patronage of the arts which enhanced French cultural life, her imprisonment, the death threats made against her, rumours of lesbian affairs, her trial (during which her young son was forced to testify to sexual abuse by his mother) and her eventual execution by guillotine in 1793.
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Eleanor Bron brought to life Antonia Fraser's writing. Beautifully and sympathetically written casting a very different light on Marie-Antoinette's life.
She was so very sweet, yet remarkably modern.
Marie-Antoinette, but it's hard to fault any of Ms. Bron's characterisations.
I found the story incredibly moving and enlightening.
I learned so much information from having listened to this that my entire opinion of the reign of their Majesties has been altered. An incredible book, exquisitely researched and lovingly written and narrated. 10/10
- Binky Bowles-Balls
History well researched & told; voice falls short
Fraser has done her homework, giving a full, humane and insightful account of her subject's upbringing and character. Her contextual information (politics, family power-plays, protocol, international relationships, etc) ensures the reader is aware of the wider world surrounding the individual woman, whom she has brought vividly to life.
As well as being sound in her research, Fraser writes well, and she is especially deft and assured in describing (with occasional, appropriately-pitched speculation) the wide-ranging and increasingly severe political pressures gathering around her young subject.
Bron's enunciation is excellent, and her distinctive voice should be perfect for the book. She is known to be a fine actor, but in this performance she disappoints: at times she seems to be keeping an eye on the clock, for she maintains a pace that does not allow timely pauses at sensitive moments. To this somewhat relentless 'drive' she adds at many times a rather strident pitch. The overall effect is recitation rather than narration, and it intrudes into the story. Disappointing.
Still worth buying and listening to, for the story is solid and well told, and Bron's telling of it is certainly good enough; just wish it were better.