Review of Naslund, Abundance [Ala.author]
- Naslund is a Birmingham native...see
These "Daily Dose" reviews come from the independent bookstore chain
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-A.J. Wright // ajwright@...
From: Powells.com Daily Dose [mailto:dailydose@...]
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 2:07 AM
To: Amos J Wright
Subject: Daily Dose: Abundance, a Novel of Marie Antoinette (P.S.)
Today's Dose is by Stacey from Gladstone, Oregon
"Abundance, a Novel of Marie Antoinette (P.S.)"
by Sena Jeter Naslund
"This book is excellent! I thought it might be a bit of a bore,
but the writing is really great. I am loving the author's style
of getting the information to me using 'Toinette's personality
and words. The movie left me wanting so much more, and this book
really fills in all the blanks! I will be reading more by this
"Like everyone, I am born naked."
With this opening line of Naslund's compelling new novel, a very
human Marie Antoinette invites readers to live her story as she
herself experiences it. From the lush gardens of Versailles to
the lights and gaiety of Paris, the verdant countryside of France,
and finally the stark and terrifying isolation of a prison cell,
the young queen's life is joyful, poignant, and harrowing by turns.
As her world of unprecedented royal splendor crumbles, the charming
Marie Antoinette matures into a heroine of inspiring stature,
one whose nobility arises not from the circumstance of her birth
but from her courageous spirit.
Marie Antoinette was a child of fourteen when her mother, the
Empress of Austria, arranged for her to leave her family and her
country to become the wife of the fifteen-year-old Dauphin, the
future King of France. Coming of age in the most public of arenas,
the young queen embraces her new family and the French people,
and she is embraced in return. Eager to be a good wife and strong
queen, she shows her new husband nothing but love and encouragement,
though he repeatedly fails to consummate their marriage and in
doing so, fails to give her the thing she -- and the people of
France -- desire most: a child and an heir to the throne.
Deeply disappointed and isolated in her own intimate circle apart
from the social life of the court, the queen allows herself to
remain ignorant of the country's growing economic and political
crises. She entrusts her soul to her women friends, her music
teacher, her hairdresser, the ambassador from Austria, and a certain
Swedish count so handsome that admirers label him the Picture.
When her innocent and well-chaperoned pilgrimage to watch the
sun rise is viciously misrepresented in satiric pamphlets as a
drunken orgy, the people begin to turn against her. Poor harvests,
bitter winters, war debts, and poverty precipitate rebellion and
revenge as the royal family and many nobles are caught up in a
murderous time known as the Terror.
With penetrant insight into new historical scholarship and with
wondrous narrative skill, Naslund offers an intimate, fresh, and
dramatic re-creation of this compelling woman that goes beyond
popular myth. Abundance reveals a compassionate and spontaneous
Marie Antoinette who rejected the formality and rigid protocol
of the court; an enchanting and tenderhearted outsider who was
loved by her adopted homeland and people until she became the
target of revolutionary cruelty and violence; a dethroned queen
whose depth of character sustained her in even the worst of times.
Once again, Sena Jeter Naslund has shed new light on an important
moment of historical change and made that time as real to us as
the one we are living now. Exquisitely detailed, beautifully written,
heartbreaking and powerful, "Abundance" is a novel that is impossible
to put down.
"The opening sentence of Naslund's fictional memoir of Marie Antoinette
('Like everyone, I am born naked') sets a hypnotically intimate
tone that never wavers as the much-maligned Austrian princess
recounts her life from baptism in the Rhine and rebirth as French
citizen to appointment with the guillotine. In Naslund's ("Ahab's
Wife") sympathetic portrayal, 14-year-old 'Toinette' arrives in
France a pretty-mannered naf determined to please the king, the
court and, most importantly, her husband, the Dauphin. The novel
provides a wealth of detail as Toinette savors the food, architecture,
music and gardens of Versailles; indulges in hair and clothing
rituals; gets acquainted with her indifferent partner and her
scheming new relations; and experiences motherhood and loss. Her
story unfolds like classical tragedy -- the outcome known, the
account riveting -- as famous incidents are reinterpreted (the
affair of the necklace, the flight to Varennes), culminating in
a heartbreaking description of the bloody head of the Princess
de Lamballe held aloft on a pike for the deposed queen to see.
With vivid detail and exquisite narrative technique, Naslund exemplifies
the best of historical fiction, finding the woman beneath the
pose, a queen facing history as it rises up against her." "Publishers
Weekly (Starred Review)" (Copyright Reed Business Information,
"Naslund has done her homework, and imagined her complex, bewitching
protagonist in persuasive depth and detail. The result is an exemplary
historical novel." "Kirkus Reviews"
"Carefully researched details about such things as the decor at
Versailles lend verisimilitude but also often serve as symbolic
"If you read one book about Marie Antoinette (also the subject
of a movie starring Kirsten Dunst this fall), let it be Sena Jeter
Naslund's gripping, gabby and beautifully poignant novel about
the French queen's brief reign and bloody end." "USA Today"
"Intensive historical inquiry enables Naslund to re-create Marie
Antoinette's life with empathy and irresistibly piquant detail."
"Immersing us in the life of the French court at its most vulnerable
and decadent time, Naslund's marvelous work is more detailed and
has more depth than Carolly Erickson's "The Hidden Diary of Marie
Antoinette."" "Library Journal"
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sena Jeter Naslund is Writer in Residence at the University of
Louisville, program director of the Spalding University brief-residency
MFA in Writing, and current Kentucky Poet Laureate. Recipient
of the Harper Lee Award and the Southeastern Library Association
Fiction Award, she is editor of "The Louisville Review" and the
Fleur-de-Lis Press. She is the author of the novels "Ahab's Wife,
Four Spirits," and "Sherlock in Love" and a collection of stories,
"The Disobedience of Water." She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.