Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette, was written by Sena Jeter Naslund, and published by William Morrow in 2006. An epic drama spanning the time Marie Antoinette entered France at the age of fourteen in 1770 until her death by guillotin in 1793, Abundance represents the best in historical fiction. I couldn’t help but think of Freytag’s pyramid for dramatic structure in a story while reading it, because it followed it perfectly–even keeping with the directional rise and fall of Marie Antoinette and her family.
Naslund did her research from primary sources, and drew her conclusions of obvious sympathy for the unlucky queen from there. She tells the story from “Toinette’s” point of view; thus, the reader can’t help but be sympathetic to her. Naslund makes Marie Antoinette our intimate friend through her portrayal of the sweet and innocent fourteen-year-old child, to the capricious and over-indulged girl in her late teens and early twenties, to the woman she had become after the birth of her children, and ultimately, the demise of the monarchy following the Reign of Terror. Naslund gives Marie Antoinette a brilliant and satisfying character arc that makes her tragic end all the more poignant.
I am an historical fiction writer. I love to read historical fiction. I love nothing more than learning about different people and places in history through a narrative. This book offered me all of my favorite things, and I highly recommend it.
Last year, I read The Hidden Diary of Marie Antionette by Carolly Erickson. It was more overtly sexual and violent than Naslund’s novel, and it lacked the depth and insight into Marie Antoinette’s thinking that Abundance tried to provide. It was entertaining, however, so it was not a disappointment.
What’s amazing to me is that, in spite of knowing the endings of these historical women, I a) still want to read as many versions of their stories as I can, and b) still cry when they get their heads chopped off. When Anne Boleyn in The Tudors lost her head last season, I was depressed for days.
I’m (reluctantly) stepping away from history, briefly, to read a Jodi Picoult novel called Change of Heart that has been recommended to me by three different people over the last month. I have a strict “once a year” policy for Jody Picoult novels because they are so depressing. It’s moving very quickly, though, so I’ll have a review of that next week.