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The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette    by Carolly Erickson order for
Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette
by Carolly Erickson
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, a fictional debut for historian and nonfiction author Carolly Erickson, is what it purports to be - a fictional account of Marie Antoinette's life taken from the pages of a diary that she kept hidden from the time of her youth through her reign as Queen of France in the 18th century until she met her demise at the guillotine during the French Revolution in 1793. In a breezy style in the form of diary entries, the queen sets forth her life as she grows from a young girl of Austrian royal heritage to eventually reign as queen by the side of her husband and king, Louis XVI of France, an intelligent but passive man.

The reader sees 18th century Europe through the eyes of a young woman seeking to make life better for her people - although the eventual uprising of revolutionaries against the king and queen show many Parisians felt otherwise. The author portrays Marie Antoinette as a brave, beautiful, intelligent and loving heroine who often takes charge in leadership of the country, as the king is unfit or unwilling to take a stance or make important changes. There are also glimpses of a more personal side of Marie Antoinette, including her involvement with a Swedish lover, Axel Fersen (their relationship has been documented as historical fact), and her lifelong fondness for her childhood friend and servant Eric (a fictional creation to enhance the plot).

Fans of historical fiction will enjoy The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette. Reading about life during this era in Europe is interesting, and Marie Antoinette is portrayed as a complex, fascinating woman - a kinder, more generous soul than many historians have made her out to be (she has been inaccurately yet notoriously linked to the callous statement, 'Let them eat cake', in response to starving Parisians' pleas for bread). Erickson does an excellent job of portraying the lifestyle and political issues faced by the queen during her reign. While the reader knows that the queen's demise is imminent, the book itself is an engrossing page-turner, which I highly recommend.

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