Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow

Written by Juliet Grey
Review by Susan Higginbotham

In this novel, the second in a planned trilogy, Juliet Grey picks up Marie Antoinette’s story from the beginning of her husband’s reign to the eve of the French Revolution.

I enjoyed this installment. Marie Antoinette was a complex and flawed character, whose mistakes and blunders are not overlooked, and her narrative voice felt much more natural than it did in the previous volume. Grey also made good use of the letters between the characters.

Most of the novel is told in the first person by Marie Antoinette, but there are stretches of third-person narration, too, mainly for the purpose of giving the reader the details of the infamous Affair of the Necklace that Marie herself could not have known. While this was helpful to the reader, and the third-person narration was well written, its irregular appearances made the overall effect a little jarring.

Any novel about Marie Antoinette must address the question of the queen’s relationship with Axel Fersen. I won’t give away the approach Grey takes, but I thought her interpretation, which was discussed in depth in the author’s note, was a reasonable one.

Grey plainly is passionate about her subject and strongly involved in her story, and this shows to good effect. I’m looking forward—if that is the right phrase for a novel about the tragic last years of Marie Antoinette—to the final novel in the trilogy.