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.
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 naif 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.(Oct.) Copyright 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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1 . Completely enjoyed the book
Posted December 07, 2008 by L.Walker , Norco, CAVery entertaining, I started reading and couldn't put it down. HIghly recommended
October 03, 2006
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Excerpt from Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund
Like everyone, I am born naked.
I do not refer to my actual birth, mercifully hidden in the silk folds of memory, but to my birth as a citizen of France ' citoyenne, they would say. Having shed all my clothing, I stand in a room on an island in the middle of the Rhine River ' naked. My bare feet occupy for this moment a spot considered to be neutral between beloved Austria and France. The sky blue silk of my discarded skirt wreathes my ankles, and I fancy I am standing barefooted in a puddle of pretty water.
My chest is as flat as a shield, marked only by two pink rosebuds of nipples. I refuse to be afraid. In the months since I became fourteen, I've watched these pleasant rosebuds becoming a bit plump and pinker. Now the fingers and hands of my attendants are stretching toward my neck to remove a smooth circlet of Austrian pearls.
I try to picture the French boy, whom I have never seen, extending large hands toward me, beckoning. What is he doing this very moment, deep in the heart of France At fifteen, a year older than myself, he must be tall and strong. There must be other words than tall and strong to think of ' to describe him, to help me imagine and embody his reality.
My mother, Empress of Austria, has told me how to anticipate the meeting of our bodies and all the events of my life to come; I am always in her prayers. Every month I will write to her and she to me, and our private letters will travel by our own couriers between France and Austria. When I try to picture my future husband, Louis Auguste, standing in the forests of France with hands and arms outstretched to me, I can only envision my most dear mother, dressed in black, sitting behind me like a dark wedge at her desk; she awaits the courier bearing a white rectangular packet, the envelope that represents me.
After I am married at Versailles, when Louis Auguste and I are alone in bed, certain events will follow. We will copulate through the door at the bottom of my body; next, I become pregnant. Nine months after my marriage I give birth to a baby. There will be many witnesses when my body, then age fifteen, opens to produce a future king. Years from then, after my husband has died, this baby will be the seventeenth Louis, King of France. This is what I know.
While my ladies flutter like bright butterflies around me, I glance at my naked body, a slender worm. Louis Auguste and I must be much the same, as all humans are really much the same, except for the difference of sex. We all have two legs ' mine are slender ' supporting a torso; two arms sprout on either side of a bodily cabinet, which contains the guts and bladder in the lower compartment and the heaving lungs and heart in the upper section. In between, for women, is the chamber called the womb. From the trunk, a neck rises up like a small lookout tower whose finial is the head.