December 2016
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Abundance: a novel of Marie Antoinette, Sena Jeter Naslund

Abundance is the tale of Marie Antoinette, France’s doomed queen, slandered by many, but lately attempts to rescue her reputation have been made. Abundance is not an exception, portrayed Marie Antoinette as a naive girl, even when she is a woman, determined to do her duty but ultimately failing to understand what the populace needs from her.

It’s a challenge to get into this book. Marie Antoinette’s narration is strange and distant, which means it takes a good few pages to get used to and feel that you like her. She is her own impediment to reader’s affection, given that she is so distant from the real world throughout the novel. I don’t know that this is a fault of the novel, but she expresses her care for the people and how she does not wish to live extravagantly when she is surrounded by opulence. She’s almost too naive to care about, until the end.

The prose is well done other than this odd distant feel, and the other characters are portrayed fairly reasonably. I just find the entire situation hard to believe; luckily, I have Marie Antoinette: The Journey, on which this book was based, waiting to be read, so that I will be better able to justify the novel’s historical judgment. The plot moves along quickly, skipping years where nothing much happened, focusing only on the events. It is interesting to see the French Revolution from the perspective of the royal family, as I feel we are more typically given the history from the revolutionaries’ view.

In short, I found Marie Antoinette too saintly to be real, though I doubt she committed all the crimes that the populace claimed, but I did find the other characters and the relationships in the novel to be genuine. I would say that Abundance is a fairly typical historical fiction, not bad but not great either.

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