Book Review: Abundance

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. 

In my Amazon searches, I came across another Marie Antoinette novel by Antonia Fraser.  Sofia Coppola based her Marie Antoinette movie off of this book.  I’ll have to put that in my Netflix Queue. 

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.



2 thoughts on “Book Review: Abundance

  1. Eileen says:

    Great book review, Erika! We just read this book for our book club and I found myself alternately sympathizing with “Toinette” and wanting to slap her for being so out of touch. Although I know if was a fictional account, it was very interesting to hear her story through her eyes–really opened my mind to a different side of her. I particularly enjoyed getting to “know” her as a mother.

    Jodi Picoult is one of my favorites although I think some of her books have been big “misses.” I look forward to your review of “Change of Heart.” Not one of my favorites (I tend to like her less religious books) but gut wrenching and thought provoking in the end. Enjoy!

  2. Heather J. says:

    This sounds like an amazing book. You know I enjoy historical fiction, and Marie Antoinette is about as fascinating as they come.

    However, I really didn’t like the Coppola movie because of it’s modern feel. I look forward to seeing what you think of it once you watch it.

    And on the Change of Heart thing, we’re reading that for my book club this month. I’m almost at the end and I can say that I have wholeheartedly hated this book. One of the gals in my club quit reading it b/c it was so bad, and a few others have said they aren’t really enjoying it. I’ll be putting up my review in the next few days so you may want to hold off reading that post until you finish the book.

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