Antoinette’s Sister

Diana Giovinazzo. Grand Central, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-1-538-72012-7
Giovinazzo (The Woman in Red) offers an exceptional portrait of 18th-century Austria’s Habsburg royal dynasty through the eyes of spirited archduchess Charlotte, who becomes queen of Naples and breaks with France after her younger sister Marie Antoinette’s execution. After Charlotte’s older sister Josepha dies of smallpox, Charlotte takes Josepha’s place at 15 as the bride of King Ferdinand, a weak and immature monarch. When Charlotte gives birth to a male heir in 1777, she is allowed to join Naples’s ruling body, as stipulated in her marriage contract; she assumes control of the kingdom from her disinterested husband, modeling her reign after her ambitious mother, ruler of the Austria-Hungary Empire. With Prime Minister Sir John Acton, her confidante whom she loves deeply, Charlotte creates a legacy of wealth and beautification by cultivating wasteland with olive groves, completing dormant projects for gardens and palaces, and launching French-style salons with artists, authors, and musicians. Then the execution of Marie Antoinette leads a grieving Charlotte to join an English fighting coalition against France. Charlotte also repeatedly snubs the French ambassador and bans the speaking of French, and in 1798, Charlotte sees the fall of Naples to Bonaparte. Giovinazzo vividly depicts a formidable monarch from a turbulent era of European history. This sprawling tale of power, intrigue, and ambition is a winner. Agent: Johanna Castillo, Writers House. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 10/28/2021
Release date: 01/11/2022
Genre: Fiction
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