Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette by Carolyn Meyer. 2010. [April 2010] Harcourt. 420 pages.
The empress, my mother, studied me as if I were an unusual creature she'd thought of acquiring for the palace menagerie. I shivered under her critical gaze. It was like being bathed in snow.
I was not disappointed in Carolyn Meyer's latest book. This historical novel is based on the rise and fall of Marie Antoinette. It is the story of the French Revolution and the monarchs that fell as a nation revolted.
Each chapter is a numbered rule. So you'll see advice such as:
"You must become fluent in French"
"You are born to obey, and you must learn to do so"
"Never behave in a manner to shock anyone"
"An outward display of emotion violates all the rules of etiquette"
"You cannot change the rules of etiquette"
"It is not your role to defy accepted fashion"
"You must control your spending"
Chapters, of course, don't have to be titled anything in a book. But in this case I thought it was a nice touch. It helped set the tone of the book, in my opinion. (I also loved that the chapters were quick!) Though Marie Antoinette is given plenty of advice--by her mother and her Austrian family, by her husband's family, by royal advisers, etc. Marie doesn't always follow it! She definitely had a strong will and didn't like being told what she could and couldn't do. Especially when some of the rules didn't make much sense to her. Why couldn't she dress the way she wanted? Why did everything have to be done a certain way, the way it had always been done?
The Bad Queen is told in first person through the eyes of Marie Antoinette. Towards the end of the book, as the family's fate becomes more certain, when she knows her days are numbered and the end will be anything but pretty, the narration switches to Marie's daughter.
Readers get a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to be royalty, what it's like to live in luxury, what it's like to be someone that everyone loves to hate.
I found this one to be a compelling read. Even though I knew what was coming, I just had to keep reading!
This isn't the first time Carolyn Meyer has written about royalty. There is Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess; Kristina, The Girl King; Doomed Queen Anne; Mary, Blood Mary; Beware, Princess Elizabeth; and Patience, Princess Catherine; and Duchessina: A Novel of Catherine de Medici. I've read and enjoyed them all.
What do you think of the cover of this one?
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews