Becoming Marie Antoinette, Juliet Grey's debut novel, recounts Maria Antonia's transformation from youngest archduchess of Austria into Marie Antoinette, dauphine of France. Grey tells the story from the perspective of Marie Antoinette herself, capturing the innocent and anxious voice of a young child in Austria, and developing it along with the character into a teenaged girl about to become one of the most powerful women in the world.
Grey's novel is grounded in the era, and the extensive research shines through on its pages. From interesting tidbits about life at Versailles (nobles relieved themselves in the halls) to rich and vivid descriptions of the court life, clothing and styling of the French royalty in the 18th century, Grey is diligent in representing this rarified world. She also shows us Maria Antonia's step-by-step makeover into a queenly figure, which included 18th-century orthodontia, careful recording of bodily functions and strict language instruction.
Though certainly not an original subject--histories and novels about the doomed queen abound--Grey has taken a well-known story and breathed life into it. The first in a planned trilogy, Becoming Marie Antoinette sets up both the history and personality of this intriguing figure in a suitably elaborate and extravagant manner. Lovers of this era will delight in the detail to be found here and look forward to more from Grey on the next chapters of Marie Antoinette's short but captivating life. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm