cover image The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette

Carolly Erickson, . . St. Martin's, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-33708-7

Historian Erickson (Bloody Mary ; To the Scaffold ; etc.) makes her first foray into fiction with this invented journal kept by the notorious queen who was sent to the guillotine during the French Revolution in 1793. Recounting her childhood as Austrian Archduchess Maria Antonia, her marriage to feckless Frenchman Louis XVI and her naïve pangs of conscience about hungry peasants clamoring at the gates of Versailles, Erickson delivers a spirited blend of fiction and fact. While Marie Antoinette's love affair with Swedish nobleman Axel Fersen is well-documented, other characters pivotal to Erickson's plot are pure fabrication: swarthy servant Eric, his jealous wife, Amelie, and the queen's confessor, Father Kuthibert. These inventions add color to the story of the ruler inaccurately linked to the phrase "Let them eat cake!" The novel's narrative engagingly reflects Marie Antoinette's progression from privileged adolescent to royal mother of four (though only one daughter and son survived into adulthood), and Erickson's descriptions of pomp and circumstance lend flavor and flair. While France's most infamous queen was clearly more sybarite than saint, Erickson's lively account reveals a woman whose bravery and resilience seem as noteworthy as the bloody details of her demise. (Sept.)