The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, which took too many liberties with the facts and didn't convey that part of Marie Antoinette that I find so interesting - that she wasn't what the popular myth would have her be, a greedy, selfish, spendaholic that said 'Let Them Eat Cake'.
The good news is that Becoming Marie Antoinette is a well researched and interesting novel. For me, it's a fine example of what good historical fiction should be - it sticks to the facts and just uses the fiction genre to fill in emotions and conversations. The first part of a trilogy, it covers Marie Antoinette's life from a child of the Austrian Royal Family, through her marriage to the French Dauphin and ends when she becomes Queen of France. Heads are all still attached to bodies so far!
One part that I found fascinating was Marie's makeover before she could marry Louis. The French king deemed certain parts of her unacceptable so she had to go through some horrible things, including truly gruesome dental surgery without anaesthetic, before she could be shipped off to France. For me it reinforced how royal marriages at that time had nothing to do with romance or love, they were business transactions between different countries and the feelings of the parties involved had no consequence.
I also enjoyed how Juliet Grey portrayed the relationship between Marie and the Dauphin. He was famously awkward and the fact that he couldn't bring himself to consummate the marriage for a long time is notorious. Grey handled this sensitively and bought the character of Louie to life so much that you really did feel sorry for him at the end. It was also interesting to consider what an unusual situation it would be now - forced to marry someone you have never met, and then expected to have a baby as soon as possible.
This novel contains a wealth of historical detail about clothing, royal protocol, minor nobles and the court at Versailles. I enjoyed this level of detail, but I imagine it could be off-putting for some, especially those that are just after a story. This isn't a fast-paced book. Anyone reading this novel should also go in with the knowledge that it is only part one of a trilogy, and therefore the ending isn't completely resolved.
Verdict: Great piece of historical fiction, can't wait for the next installment!
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Score: 4.5 out of 5