The author of the bestselling Ahab’s Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund takes on a true historical figure this time, in Abundance, an imaginative, well researched, and gripping novel about Marie Antoinette.
Transported naked across the French border – to symbolize the relinquishing of her Austrian ancestry – the adolescent ‘Toinette is greeted by loving and affectionate crowds. Once in Versailles, however, very little of the outside world penetrates the court, or the protective love of her husband and family. Thus cocooned, she lives a life of great splendor and excess, ignorant of cost. Gambling thrills her; she indulges. She revels in fashion. She imagines herself a simple lover of flowers and natural beauty. Her adoration for Count von Fersen is soul-deep but chaste. She chooses her ladies for their looks, and overlooks their faults. As heedless as a teenager well into her thirties, she is repeatedly astonished at the virulence of the public tirades against her.
“Après moi, le deluge,” said the former king upon his deathbed, and indeed, Sena Jeter Naslund portrays Marie Antoinette as a heedless but good-natured woman caught up in a bloody tidal wave of events well beyond her understanding. But the author’s greatest triumph is not only in painting an intimate portrait of the queen, or of life at Versailles, but in weaving a narrative so absorbing that this reader stayed up late into the night – even knowing the ending – in the hope that it all might turn out differently. Bravo to Ms. Naslund: She has penned another fabulous bestseller.