Book Review · Historical Fiction Challenge

REVIEW: Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey

MA2Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow
Juliet Grey
Kindle Edition – 399 pages

Goodreads Synopsis: A captivating novel of rich spectacle and royal scandal, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the fateful reign of Marie Antoinette, France’s most legendary and notorious queen.

Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.

From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.

This is the second book in a trilogy about Marie Antoinette (I’m going to call her MA throughout my review). I read the first at the end of last year (aka last week).  This installment takes place over the course of MA’s middle years, from late teens to her early thirties.

As in the first book, the one thing that was kind of annoying was the use of both French and English.  Obviously, all the conversations would occur in French.  But the author would write a phrase or sentence in French and then write it in English, so it looked like the people were repeating themselves a lot.  I understand it’s for the benefit of people who don’t understand French (myself included) but it was kind of annoying nonetheless.  At the end of the e-book I saw that there was a glossary of the French terms, which was nice, but I didn’t realize it was there while reading.  If that was the case, I would have referred to it (and it would have been nice if the ebook allowed the reader to click on the French word to be taken to the glossary.)  If she felt the need to write some of the conversations in French, perhaps she should have included the English as footnotes, so it didn’t look so repetitive. (Does that make sense?)

A third person narrator appears in this book.  MA narrates the majority of the story, but certain sections were narrated by the third person; mainly because the author wanted us to see certain happenings where MA wasn’t included.  I wonder if this is setting up a narration style for book three?  Cleary, the entire third book cannot be narrated by MA because I’m assuming we will see her beheading.  I suspect that book three will have a similar narration set up.

In the first book, I was getting really frustrated with MA as she got a bit older and should have realized what she was going.  This frustration made its way through about half of the second book, up until she had her first child. Up until that point, she just didn’t seem to try to understand that she was spending tons of money on stupid things (and those hair-dos….seriously????).  I think she refused to see how extravagant her spending and gambling really were and how she was affecting the monarchy.  It was almost as if she was taking advantage of Louis’ love for her in order to get more money, though she truly did have a genuine affection for him, so I feel like she may not have realized she was taking advantage. All she could do was complain about how the people saw her; damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.  I mean, eventually this was true, she couldn’t do anything right, and the people really were getting out of hand and were “picking” on her excessively, but she could have set a different tone from the get go.  The reality: she was far to young to become a Queen (as was Louis).

This novel ends shortly after the Bastille is taken, at the precipice of the Revolution.

Honestly, I feel bad for Louis.  This novel depicts him as someone who takes the crown with a reluctant heart.  He was never meant to be king and he would prefer to be with his locks or hunting.  And he would have been better suited. I feel bad for MA too.  They were both thrust into a situation neither had any control over.  But when they finally did have control, they didn’t know what to do. Everything was working against them.

It makes you wonder how different things could have been had Louis’ elder brother not died.  Would MA have remained in Austria?  I know Louis would have been much happier if he didn’t have to be king. Would a Revolution ever have occurred?  Would he have helped the American rebels?  How much would the course of history diverge if a different person sat on the throne?

A novel I really enjoyed about the French Revolution is Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran, told from the point of view of another real person in history but not a royal, the titular character. I was curious to see this point of history from a different point of view, which is why I picked up Becoming Marie Antoinette (book 1) in the first place. (and the fact that I needed a book to read for my commute home one day.)

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4 thoughts on “REVIEW: Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey

  1. I was thinking about Michelle Moran’s book as I read this review. I really enjoyed it last year. I’ll have to look more into this series. Thanks for the review!

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