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Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

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Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Fri Jul 11, 2014 2:50 am

Has anyone read the three book series on Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey? I remember being very anxious to read these upon first hearing about them!

I enjoyed the first book "Becoming Marie Antoinette" very much. The author clearly did her research and presented 18th century Versailles very well.

Young Louis and Antoinette were portrayed charmingly and very sympathetically. I enjoyed seeing how their relationship progressed. I was also glad to see an accurate portrayal of du Barry. She was considered a refined, polite woman (despite her checkered past and loose morals) and not the nasty, vulgar representation found in Coppola's film.

Speaking of which, the author claims to despise the Coppola film, yet I couldn't help but draw some similar comparisons. Her Louis appears wholly disinterested in his wife and refuses to consummate the marriage while Antoinette tries in vain to seduce him. Very reminiscent of Coppola's film. She also included the phimosis theory which is outdated, as we have discussed elsewhere on this forum.

Furthermore, she bought into the old Freudian theory of the correlations between MA's unhappiness and spending. And there were certain parts where Antoinette appeared quite shallow and immature and self absorbed as well, even as a grown woman. She also focused far too much on MA's "relationship" with Lauzun and had her with a serious crush on the man!

And Louis, while endearing, was portrayed too weakly and there appeared no attraction between the couple at all. Louis was slender, tall, and handsome during his youth and should have been depicted thus. I dislike how MA seemed to disdain her husband at first and find him almost annoying. Yes, they had different interests and it took time to know each other and grow close to one another but I don't believe it was as bad as that. She did have a gambling problem and went out late as a teenager which was fairly represented.

Overall, the first book was a promising start.

My biggest contention with the second book was the inclusion of MA's "affair" with Fersen. What was particularly off-putting is how the author had Antoinette comparing the men. She said her husband was clumsy in the boudoir and that she never felt pleasure and also apparently that he did not know how to kiss and she was still "unschooled in the ways of love." I was disgusted. This made MA sound rather cheap, even more so than in a usual extramarital affair.

Grey had her feeling guilty which was better than others might do. Yet, she is unable to stop sleeping with him and even believes Louis is to blame for not being a better lover! Antoinette also constantly complains how infrequent her husband's conjugal visits are. Well, he wasn't a sex maniac true, but they conceived a fairly good number of children in relatively quick succession so I don't think that's quite accurate. Good Lord, woman. Where do you think they came from?!

As I said, after her first encounter with her lover, it didn't end there. Fersen becomes almost an obsession for her and she cannot give him up. If she were really regretful she would have had nothing more to do with him for fear of more temptation. She also pines for him while he's away and I just can't envision that. He had mistresses and she was too independent and devoted to her family and religion to invest so heavily in an illicit relationship. It only gave credence to the belief that she went to Trianon to have sex.

I also felt that her motherhood was not as central a part as it could have been. There were some rather touching scenes involving her and Louis however after her miscarriage in 1783 and later, during the revolution, when Louis had breakdowns and their children were dying.

Overall, I was disappointed with how their relationship was portrayed. Maybe it wasn't passionate but it was devoted which I felt was lost due to the insertion of Fersen. There was not nearly enough mention of MA's turning to the ways of devotion. In fact, religion is not mentioned much at all which explains why Grey had the relationship between Axel and Antoinette consummated. The initial guilt was there but then quickly dissipated and she seemed to no longer care. She was just driven by this new experience with this handsome, more experienced man. In real life, if she did "give into passion", in a moment's weakness, I believe she would have had no more contact with him, for fear of trespassing again, as I said earlier. In this novel, she wasn't very concerned and the affair continued for gears.

I will say that the final novel was not too bad. Especially, at the end, where Louis is to be executed. He and Antoinette exchange tender words and she appears to regret not loving and appreciating him earlier until it was too late. I also did not like how the Queen was triumphant at her trial that the revolutionaries did not mention Fersen as her lover, even though, in this book, he had been.

Overall, I found the books to be interesting reads and the portrayals sympathetic, but not the best. It's hard to find good non fiction that is not too harsh on either Louis or Antoinette and even harder to find decent fiction that portrays them as a loving, devoted, and devout couple. Too many of the old stereotypes and insinuations were included in these novels as well as other books. But it was a work of historical fiction and people are allowed interpretations and an artistic license.

Wow. I didn't mean for this post to get so long! Please share what you thought about this series if you've read them. Smile
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Sophie on Fri Jul 11, 2014 4:53 pm

These are some of the very few MA books that are available in Hungarian. I've read in Hungarian book blogs that they are quite popular among such readers who like historical fiction, but don't know as much about that specific topic as myself. (It's not a judgment, they are normal people with average interests and I'm the insane fanatic! Laughing ) There are a bunch of reviews on Reading Treasure, Anna Gibson's book blog, too.

After all the reviews, I decided to read neither this specific trilogy, nor other books that operate with a "MA from first person singular" point of view. One can call me narrow-minded or choosy, but I'm simply not interested in these stories. I have a quite established image of the Queen in my head, which is very important to me, and I don't want to bother myself with reading someone else's (I don't say worse, but different) image and get nervous because "I have another novel in my head". For the same reason, I won't read Lever's and Erickson's fake MA diaries, although they are also available in Hungarian.

I doesn't mean I avoid all novels starring Antoinette as a main or supporting character - on the contrary. I also would be delighted if someone wrote a "Louis XVI first person singular" novel. THAT would be a literary challenge! I imagine Robert Graves' Claudius dilogy or Joseph Heller's God knows starring our Louis. The deepest soul of this truly misunderstood man... that would be my novel! But these fluffy novels, written for a female audience, promising to get to know Antoinette's deepest soul but providing nothing new about her, can't interest me at all. I'm not saying that Juliet Grey is a bad author or her books are not good, but they are definitely not for me.
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Fri Jul 11, 2014 5:12 pm

I don't mind historical fiction but I agree that often times we end up disappointed. It is true that many people have their own established view of the personality and voice of a particular historical figure. I agree with you that my view of MA, which might be considered too pure to some, was quite different from this portrayal and others.

It's hard to take celebrated writers and historians like Lever seriously when they indulge in fantasies and write fiction. Obviously they are biased to begin with and will interpret everything to the way they see it. Leslie Carroll, who wrote this trilogy, herself, is just a novelist. While she does much research and has written quite a few books, I find her, first and foremost, to be a sensationalist. All of her books seem to obsess over the scandalous behavior by many figures in history under the guise of "romance." It is her specialty so I take her books with a grain of salt.

She seems to be a romantic herself in the way she described MA's affair with Fersen, complete with him having his own apartment at Versailles and everything, which is highly debated and disputable, but in any case, isn't necessarily evidence of an illicit relationship. She couldn't have known him long enough to truly have developed feelings for him, so the relationship has to be brought to lust. I resented reading such intimate scenes as I stated. I would much rather have preferred some scenes like this with her husband who was not unattractive and who was actually faithful to her and not, excuse the expression, a man-whore.

I would love to see some historical fiction starring Louis! I feel he needs a voice. Although it would indeed be challenging to accomplish as I fear some stereotypes would prevail and he left so little correspondence behind unlike his wife. It's easier to gauge her character than hers. From what I gather, she was modest and virtuous which flies in the face of an alleged affair. Perhaps the reason she behaved indiscreetly and was openly affectionate with him was because it was innocent. Why flaunt around an actual lover just because everyone already assumed you had one? It was thought he had many, why was Fersen such a concern? Was it a way to disguise the truth and be clever? Would her friends really have kept silent? But anyway, we've discussed this topic already in great detail.

It greatly annoys me how he is the focus of many fictional books of the Queen as well as by popular biographers. Poor Louis is almost forgotten entirely and badly portrayed. Even if these books, although endearing and sweet as could be, I felt he was too weak. He was shy and indecisive as an older man, but I think he did open up to his wife more and I wish that relationship was portrayed and explored more than her ambiguous one with Fersen.

Maybe someday....we can only hope!! Smile
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Fri Jul 11, 2014 5:20 pm

People are obsessed with this romantic view! I personally find nothing at all romantic about adultery, but people wish for her to have experienced love and passion.

She craved friendship most of all. That was where she wanted intimacy. Antoinette was a passionate and affectionate person but this does not indicate waywardness and an inclination to have sex with other men who were not her husband.

And motherhood was extremely important to her. She adored her children and it is devastating that she was torn away from them. Her faith, too, was serious for her especially later in life when she is supposed to have been dallying with Fersen. Why do more people not focus on those aspects of her life?! It may not make a great novel but that would be based on fact.

It does a great discredit to the woman to not show these virtues instead of vices, which are less, I warrant, than when she was alive. I do not try to paint her as perfect. She was not. But I don't believe she behaved sexually with anyone but her husband. Monogamy is a strange idea now as it sometimes one then. But I think she rose above the immortality and proved a faithful and devoted wife.
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Sophie on Fri Jul 11, 2014 5:47 pm

Kaitlyn Lauren wrote:People are obsessed with this romantic view! I personally find nothing at all romantic about adultery, but people wish for her to have experienced love and passion.

I consider myself as a romantic in its 19th century meaning. My favourites are complex stories, containing a good mixture of adventure, romance, humour and drama, and they are all, with a very few exceptions, historical novels. I'm a frequent visitor of various book and publisher sites, as well as an author in my homeland, and I think the problem is the "target audience classification" that book marketing people highly praise. If you write for "girls" or "women", your book has to contain some larger-than-life love story that would never ever happen to the readers, but they can imagine for 200 pages that they are ident with the heroine. As for the adultery, it's a version of "forbidden love", a highly popularized topic since the ancient times, and it's even more beloved than a "simple" love story.
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Fri Jul 11, 2014 6:07 pm

I consider myself romantic as well but a little old fashioned! I value faithfulness in relationships so perhaps I am biased in my views but I also just cannot conceive of her being able to cheat on her husband and don't trust the "evidences" presented.

I just wish people could see that devotion and fidelity make better love stories than those forbidden, lurid ones. Louis and Antoinette's relationship, to me, is more interesting and sweeter. They did not choose one another and they had their difficulties like every marriage but it proved to be a loving match.

She wasn't unfulfilled in her marriage and she had her children and friends to keep her company whom she loved very much. She had no need for a lover and I'm not sure how deep her feelings were for Fersen and how many opportunities she had to be alone with him. The evidence presented is just based on rumor and hopeful ideas of romance.
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Fri Jul 11, 2014 6:12 pm

It's all a matter of interpretation and a case can be made either way both with written accounts and the lack of written mentions of Fersen in other accounts.

Perhaps there are odd details such as with the supposed apartments and people's "certainties" they were lovers but it can't be proven. It seems too inconsistent.

In any case, I wish more fiction would show her love for her husband and his love and devotion for her despite early "indifference." I would love to read a work of yours! You seem to know your stuff and have done your research!

I also wish Elena would write another piece of historical fiction! I loved Trianon and she is very knowledgable. I would love to read her vision of their relationship from start to finish, written in literary form Smile
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Sophie on Fri Jul 11, 2014 6:34 pm

Kaitlyn Lauren wrote:I would love to read a work of yours! You seem to know your stuff and have done your research!

Ohh... I love you I often imagine a novel about the royal family as my Magnum Opus, so maybe, in a few years, I'll really write it. As you could see from my previous posts, my role models are mainly male writers with a "postmodern"-like, deep and smart storytelling, so my novel also would contain everything political and diplomatic, as well as Louis and Antoinette's personal involvement in the Revolution. We talk about royals, not some average people, you see? Those who want to see Antoinette as an everyday girl should either watch the Coppola film or read novels like Grey's trilogy, where they can easily identify with her. As I suspect, most of the readers like to imagine themselves as a pre-revolution-Antoinette, a fashion queen with many admirers and fun in her life. But I, on the other hand, like to focus on the revolution-Antoinette, when her true self was finally revealed. So my story wouldn't be a fluffy fairytale, and I wouldn't even waste a word on such nonsenses like her imaginary "love affair" when there's a lot of other stunning details and facts to talk about. And my Louis also wouldn't be a 2D-figure shadowed by Antoinette, but an equally deep and exciting character as well. Challenge accepted again!  bom
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Fri Jul 11, 2014 6:46 pm

 Woo-hoo! Smile

I see the appeal of making her more relatable and sympathetic but they fail. She often appears even sillier than previously portrayed. Yes, the revolution is definitely what shaped her and Louis and is an interesting time to explore. However, I wouldn't mind some earlier moments and examples of their growing closeness. Smile

What's interesting to me is that with all of his supposed love and gallantry concerning the Queen, Fersen himself never denied these rumors for all of his "discretion" and wish to preserve her reputation. He seems to be responsible for some of these persistent rumors and liked to be viewed as her lover. I think he over estimated her feelings for him.  

Just because Antoinette did not choose Louis does not mean she did not grow to love him or needed someone else in her life to give her the passion she craved! Yes, please write something that would convince others that she loved her husband and was a respectable woman!  I love you 


Last edited by Kaitlyn Lauren on Thu Jul 17, 2014 2:33 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Sophie on Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:04 pm

Kaitlyn Lauren wrote:Yes, please write something that would convince others that she loved her husband and was a respectable woman! <3

You're so sweet, thank you. But writing something like that won't be as hard as promoting it... Sad I've been struggling with my first novel to get some attention, in a land with an abnormally large supply compared to the little demand, while I'm physically absent and nearly nobody gives me a helping hand. And who knows? If people think that the silly Antoinette is "more relatable and sympathetic", I won't have any chance at all to prove the opposite. As long as books like the Zweig biography are standard, people want to find the same preconceptions in fiction, too. If not, they get upset because they had to leave their comfort zone. It's the same feeling as mine, only inversely. The tragical is that we are the minority, and book publishers tend to count on bestsellers and wider audiences rather than fulfilling the requests of a little group of people... I'm only lucky because I can write the stories that interest me for myself Razz 
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:37 pm

I'm glad you brought up Zweig because I wanted to make a comment on that!

I disagree wholly on the phimosis theory and that Louis wasn't interested in his young wife and so she spent money to cope. Sadly, this is still a popular view, even by Fraser herself. It only works to some extent.

He also supports the Fersen theory and is convinced of Fersen's letter to "Josephine" referring only to the Queen and also uses the "silence conspiracy" that Lever and other consider in regards to Fersen and Antoinette. He claims that the reason Mercy and others do not mention Fersen is because they do not want to "spill the beans" as I would say Wink

Zweig even has the gumption to state that according to Saint Priest (who is probably not too reliable even though he served in the royal household), Louis knew of the affair and approved of it as did Madame de Polignac! :O

I have no words. Louis would NEVER have consented to her carrying on with another man. Zweig does not understand Louis as well as other, later biographers have come too. And he couldn't have remained ignorant of an affair but he trusted there was none. Saint Priest apparently makes more claims but it is likely just his own observations and bitterness because Fersen slept with his wife.

Author Carrolly Erickson takes a similar view of Saint Priest's comments in her book "To the Scaffold" which I have started a new topic on. It is difficult to prove that silence did not mean covering up and it's hard to sift through reliable and unreliable sources.

It's frustrating to me that we will never know! I sincerely hope it is not and, despite some "evidence", see it as out if character. Fersen's own silence no doubt have credence as well as I said.

But, really, there's too much speculation! What is known is that she and Louis shared a strong bond for an arranged marriage and that she was a victim of a cruel press and people.
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Sophie on Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:07 pm

Kaitlyn Lauren wrote:It's frustrating to me that we will never know! I sincerely hope it is not and, despite some "evidence", see it as out if character. Fersen's own silence no doubt have credence as well as I said.

Interestingly, after I found out years ago that this love affair very likely never happened - or, say, more details speak against it than for it -, it doesn't frustrate me anymore. I have my opinion that I also can testify with arguments, and it's enough for me. If there's a portrayal of Antoinette that I don't like, it's not only because they shipped her with Fersen or portrayed her marriage in a false way, but rather because of the whole picture itself. The Coppola film wouldn't be better if they left the Fersen subplot out, honestly. It would have still operated with that dumb storyline and primitively written dialogues, showing Antoinette as some superficial shopaholic. It's also worth admitting that many films and books tend to show Louis in a rather sympathetic light, and it's not bad in itself, I just dislike the way he's always degraded as a supporting character in comparison to his "infamous and extravagant" wife. But we've already discussed this here, too Smile
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:33 pm

Yes, we've covered it all before but I think it's important to revisit these ideas from time to time! I care much more for Louis which is probably why I am almost desperately trying to disprove an affair but I am not trying to make her "pure."

I agree! The Coppola film wouldn't have been redeemable even without Fersen in it! Too much Zweig as an interpretation, not enough politics, and many other inaccuracies. What specific evidence have you found that reassures you? There doesn't appear to be many statements written denying it that couldn't also be argued that they are hiding the truth. Elena provided some sources that spoke against it but it's hard to find contemporaries that would have definitely known and whom the Queen would have confided in and that wouldn't just lie and speak of her innocence to preserve her memory.

I don't think she would have behaved indiscreetly with him and shown him such favor had she been guilty. She may not have cared what people thought but I don't think she would have just given in because people said she was already with him.

It do wonder why she wasn't a little more careful maybe if her reputation but as the damage was already done it couldn't have hurt, but again, I don't think this thinking made her justify a relationship.

I'm sure she reassured Louis and gave him no reason to be suspicious and wouldn't have deceived him.
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Sophie on Sat Jul 12, 2014 12:38 pm

Kaitlyn Lauren wrote:What specific evidence have you found that reassures you? There doesn't appear to be many statements written denying it that couldn't also be argued that they are hiding the truth.

I can only mention Occam's razor again. I've been never fond of such theories which believe in a hidden truth one must "read between the lines". The specific evidence are the little sources and the enormous quantity of interpretations based on them, which also speak against each other. For instance, theories also contradict about when the alleged "love affair" started - in 1774, or 1778, or 1783, or 1785, or 1792? If there's no clear evidence for a date, we can assume that it NEVER started, and the problem is easily solved... Laughing
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Mata Hari on Sun Jul 13, 2014 11:38 pm

So glad to see this trilogy discussed. I totally agree with Sophie. I was very very disappointed with all the similarities to the Coppola film. I was disappointed to see the phimosis theory, the Fersen affair, the Freudian theory and all the lame myths resurrected again. Rolling Eyes And I hate the way Louis was portrayed.tongue  At least we don't have the Queen vacationing in Sweden with Fersen as in Carolly Erickson's book.No  

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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Sun Jul 13, 2014 11:48 pm

Oh good Lord, THAT was a disaster!

Very reminiscent of the Other Boleyn Girl! Riddled with inaccuracies, both of these books!
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Bunnies on Mon Jul 14, 2014 11:19 pm

Ahhhh, the third book is very high on my reading list. I read the first two as they were released, purchased the third and --- just left it to rot in my Kindle because my novel-reading has gone downhill recently.

As I've said, I've one read the first two and they didn't make me gag. To be fair, when it comes to Pre-Revolutionary things, it's kinda hard to make me violently ill. I'll roll my eyes at Fersen romances and bite my lip if Antoinette constructs a throne out of starving peasants but I'm not going to do anything radical. [See, it's a ha-ha funny joke because I'm a --- oh, never mind.] But even with my bar being so low, every once in awhile *cough* Erickson *cough* a novel can't clammer over it and...Grey clammered over my bar. I liked the first two books. I got a little skeevy when the Estates-General approached but nothing really happened to make me grab a pitchfork.

And in those books I liked: I absolutely agree with the above re: du Barry. I was just telling a riend the other day, du Barry's in a tough position historically insofar as while there is nobody who consciously wants to defame her, no one wants to defend her either. And so, the woman who was teenage Antoinette's enemy and a convicted counterrevolutionary just tends to be condemned by virtue of how historians have collectively shrugged their shoulders at whatever sludge was poured on her contemporaneously.

Furthermore, she bought into the old Freudian theory of the correlations between MA's unhappiness and spending. And there were certain parts where Antoinette appeared quite shallow and immature and self absorbed as well, even as a grown woman. She also focused far too much on MA's "relationship" with Lauzun and had her with a serious crush on the man!

I had forgotten this tidbit. But yeah, in general, using Freud as any measure of characterization is flawed on two fronts. 1.) You can't diagnose someone long-dead. 2.) Freud has been discredited by all reputable psychological authorities. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar because it's a cigar and sometimes Antoinette's spending money because --- she's queen of France? And she's not spending that much, compared to her contemporaries? Why is this even an issue worth discussing?

Edit: For some reason, I didn't see that this was Page 2 when I replied and I missed the totality of the initial discussion. I'm sorry about that - I'll be more careful next time! D:
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Elena on Tue Jul 15, 2014 12:10 am

Bunnies wrote:

Furthermore, she bought into the old Freudian theory of the correlations between MA's unhappiness and spending. And there were certain parts where Antoinette appeared quite shallow and immature and self absorbed as well, even as a grown woman. She also focused far too much on MA's "relationship" with Lauzun and had her with a serious crush on the man!

I had forgotten this tidbit. But yeah, in general, using Freud as any measure of characterization is flawed on two fronts. 1.) You can't diagnose someone long-dead. 2.) Freud has been discredited by all reputable psychological authorities. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar because it's a cigar and sometimes Antoinette's spending money because --- she's queen of France? And she's not spending that much, compared to her contemporaries? Why is this even an issue worth discussing?

I agree.

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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Tue Jul 15, 2014 6:56 pm

I don't want to disrespect the sanctity of the marriage bed, but, as I said, I am always disappointed when I read "love scenes" between Antoinette and Louis. I don't want anything graphic of course and it's quite disrespectful but I was hoping for something a little...more?

Why are paragraphs and pages dedicated to Antoinette and Fersen having sex and barely a mention with her husband?! Their relationship could have had some passionate and spontaneous moments. He finally consummated their marriage as she was getting out of her tub, sounds romantic to me! Wink

I don't understand it. So they were both inexperienced, there was pain, it was awkward, and neither one of them were probably great lovers but the author acted as if they were completely chaste. They can't even bother to look at each other and all love making was done with nightgowns on and under the sheets, sheesh!  Rolling Eyes 

All of her "experience" comes from the hot, Swedish playboy and her husband is dull and doesn't give her any pleasure and doesn't "explore." This got a little weird but you see my point...  Embarassed 

I don't want vivid sex scenes between the royal couple, of course not! But something a little more romantic than "oh yeah, we finally consummated our marriage." And then for Fersen, it's all passion and "finally! Someone who knows how to please me and kiss and make love the right way!" It was horrible.... affraid 


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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Bunnies on Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:43 pm

Finally caught up with the page 1 discussion and re: the popularity of the "Fersen" subplot...

If I recall, I much preferred the Grey novel to the second because there's a strong, relateable conflict --- Antoinette struggles to introduce herself to court and overcome an entrenched Anti-Austrian bias among her new peers. This scenario is intrinsically interesting; it was the best part of the Coppola film too. But then the second novel was primarily an elongated elongated portending of the Diamond Necklace Affair, which was in turn an elongated portending of the Revolution. And to keep our attention in between the foreboding dropped hints she throws in adultery because nothing else is going on. And no, historical figures or no historical figures, nobody will ever buy a book just about two people who are in love with no conflict. It's lovely, it's romantic, but novels aren't about Everything Being Okay All the Time. That's...boring.

In a sense, a "trilogy" of Antoinette's life is too ambitious. Enduring the violent rage of a populace is far more impressive to read about than enduring some snide remarks by a few spinster princesses. But that's the primary conflict Antoinette encounters before the Revolution, factually and historically speaking. Likewise, a woman who is in an arranged marriage, falls in love with her husband, and remains in love with her husband is on a very straight course and from a sheer literary perspective this is boring. There's no conflict. Conflict is what drives a story, conflicts and -- well, events.

An adultery is an event. What else are you going to fill the 15-some pre-revolutionary years otherwise? A visit to Sweden to help the King decorate? Sorry I'm making fun of Erickson again but she's so bad.

Fersen is primarily a narrative device to maintain the reader's attention until the dive into the Revolution. How can it be avoided? ...Well, don't have a trilogy. Don't have a second book to serve solely as an ominous foreshadowing of the third. Just start with the third. Start on the Eve of the Revolution. Start at the point of action, the point of change - then there is no need to sluggishly fill in the peaceful years with invented conflict that inevitably boils down to Adultery With Fersen. Vidal's Trianon begins shortly before the concoction of the Estates-General, if I recall correctly. And aside from Elena's astute scholarship, this is a reason her novel has no Fersen romance: there's no need for it. The Revolution draws enough attention and provides enough conflict. Because, I don't care what your opinion on the Revolution is: it's more interesting to read about 1789 than 1779. Trying to make 1779 compete with '89 in terms of conflict leads to Fersen.

Just...start...later.

Regarding the lack of sex scenes between Louis XVI and Antoinette --- I'd forgotten, were there sex scenes with Fersen? My rule-of-thumb has always been that if there's sex in the novel it should be metaphorically substituting for something else; if it's sex just for sex, that's porn. On the flip side, there can be metaphors that are standing for sex, the novelist's answer to the "fade to black" in movies. ...Did the Fersen sex mean anything? Not going to lie, Juliet Grey's first two novels seemed too busy snapping bubblegum to employ subtle narrative devices like metaphors but I can be blunt sometimes.

Otherwise eww.
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:52 pm

I agree!! Very Happy

A novel depicting her whole life is ambitious and tricky to write and it does inevitably lead to Fersen. He is supposed to represent romance but I think it comes across more as conflict and breaking down of moral barriers which I don't believe she did.  Neutral 

I know I sound harsh when reviewing these books when really I liked them alright. But I just found too many of the old stereotypes being rehashed. Ya know? Some things just weren't necessary. I didn't see any real growth or change besides her becoming an unfaithful wife. And then having the gall to blame her husband for it...basically. Ok, wow.  Shocked 

Yes there was one sex scene with Fersen. It took up a few pages. It doesn't make sense to include something like this after she realizes she loves her husband and children. Ugh. So annoying. It just takes up space and is pointless "romance." Realistically, there's no way she could've snuck off with him at Trianon even during the summer and in "secret" rooms.  Rolling Eyes 

I prefer little to no sex in my novels as well but if there needs to be I agree, nothing graphic. And it should be wholesome. Not torrid, adulterous romances but between a loving, married couple. Maybe they didn't have the hots for each other at first but why couldn't it have developed a little?  Razz 

Anyway, needless to say, I am a romantic when it comes to Antoinette and would like to see them portrayed as a loving and devoted couple! There is a serious lack in decent historical fiction, even in biographies.

They both had strict upbringings and could be quite prudish but I don't think it was quite as severe as some make it out to be. No kissing on the lips? Mustn't see each other undressed? Please.  Ok, so they were innocent and didn't know what to do and they certainly weren't expected to enjoy relations and I imagine neither one of them was very sexual, but I still don't buy the aforementioned picture.

But  it doesn't make sense for Antoinette to have all this pent up desire and passion and a "good teacher" in Fersen! I just don't like that at all...I don't think it was all Louis. It has to also do with temperament. I don't think she needed another man to come along and show her anything.

Humans are sexual beings, yes, but don't think she really was. But I don't think that Louis was without a sex drive and that either of them hated this "duty." He was a man after all! Even if he wasn't licentious, why couldn't he break down some barriers and appreciate the beautiful woman that was his wife?? Wink


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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Mata Hari on Tue Jul 15, 2014 9:43 pm

We must remember that authors, no matter how good their intentions, tend to project their own world view upon the characters of a historical novel. It takes a very disciplined historian not to do so. It is easy for an author to get carried away with a romance, I'm sure. All I know, is that from all we know about Marie-Antoinette, she was known for her austere temper (as her own brother described her) and therefore the idea that she would allow herself to be shared by two men, Louis and Fersen, is absurd. Shocked


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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:00 pm

Precisely!

And when she ceased to have conjugal relations with Louis I doubt she replaced him wit Fersen! She couldn't have
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Sophie on Mon Jul 21, 2014 3:16 pm

Bunnies wrote:An adultery is an event.

OK, it's true. But there are thousands of other events to write about. As I've mentioned here, if I wrote something about the pre-revolution time with the royals in the spotlight, I would concentrate on their political roles. I'm not against love stories, even if they are not historically accurate, but I definitely don't like them in this context. I would be interested in the love life of a French peasant girl, or even a noblewoman, but not the Queen. This is where my tastes differ from other people's: for me, the royals and their acquintances are "tools" to understand the situation that leads to wars, political events or, speaking of Louis and Antoinette, the French Revolution. Reading that "Antoinette wasn't interested in politics, but fell in love in someone and had sex with him"-stories make me sick. It's a missed chance, and steals the show from historically proven events. Instead of having sex with Fersen in Trianon, Antoinette was aware to win Louis' attention and support in some (mostly Austrian) cases, and she *was* keen on politics. It's another question how far she understood state issues and how far Louis permitted her to involve in them, but she wasn't an ordinary woman whose love life is the most interesting to talk about.

A good example for a beautiful forbidden love story is in Maurice Druon's The Accursed Kings-series. Guccio the Italian banker boy fells in love with a French noble girl. I don't know if this subplot was true or only came from Druon's fantasies, but I don't really care - it's so beautifully written and sad, I cried for them while reading the books... Crying or Very sad And there are kings and queens in the series, too, but Druon, as far as I know, only used histrorically accurate events in their cases. They had many real love affairs and other dirty open secrets to write about. And most of them were politically relevant, indeed!
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Re: Marie Antoinette Trilogy - Juliet Grey

Post  Bunnies on Mon Jul 21, 2014 3:59 pm

Sophie wrote:This is where my tastes differ from other people's: for me, the royals and their acquintances are "tools" to understand the situation that leads to wars, political events or, speaking of Louis and Antoinette, the French Revolution. Reading that "Antoinette wasn't interested in politics, but fell in love in someone and had sex with him"-stories make me sick. It's a missed chance, and steals the show from historically proven events. Instead of having sex with Fersen in Trianon, Antoinette was aware to win Louis' attention and support in some (mostly Austrian) cases, and she *was* keen on politics. It's another question how far she understood state issues and how far Louis permitted her to involve in them, but she wasn't an ordinary woman whose love life is the most interesting to talk about.

I would read the bejeezus out of that book. Antoinette aside, this is arguably a defect in a lot of historical fiction centering on royals. The politics are phased out - or if they are included, inevitably get boiled down to "the king is favoring Family A but Family B is jealous." But then we run into a plethora of new problems. In the first place: how much of our audience is really interested in politics? I'm fascinated by the practical application of Turgot's economic policy but who else shares my predilection? In the second place: The book is now political. This is not to say that Juliet Grey's trilogy isn't political by default - even if it's not written with a specific political agenda in mind, the books by implication and insinuation take a firm political stance. This goes unnoticed by many readers, and I'd wager an American Libertarian and American Democrat could both read the books without any onslaught against their ideologies blipping on their radar. "Oh, yeah, angry mobs are bad, who could even argue?" But once you abandon your focus on personalities you also abandon the safety of insinuation: the political ink will bleed through the very page.

You'll be walking a fine light between boring and infuriating your reader.
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