Sunday, November 04, 2007

Marie Antoinette

by Antonia Fraser

Do history professors hate Antonia Fraser? Are they green with jealousy?

The reason I ask is that many professors I have known basically regarding teaching as the price they have to pay for being able to make a living while doing research. Yet here is Antonia Frasier, born, it seems, with a silver spoon in her mouth, writing blockbuster biographies supported by the most meticulous research with nary a student to pester her and no exams to grade. She gets to waltz through Europe, gaining access to all sorts of primary documents, without, as far as I can tell, even having earned an advanced degree. She has time to read every work ever published in her field of interest. What a life! I'm not even a historian, and I'm envious.

The Teen Queen: Marie Antoinette I really loved this biography of Marie Antoinette. All this time, I had no idea that I was a victim of propaganda more than two centuries old in my uninformed opinions about her. The effect of this propaganda on the people of her time, and the massive substitution of emotion for rational thought in the political climate of this time are both very relevant to conditions today. There's much food for thought there, as well as the always interesting portrait of life in another time and place. I certainly appreciated the way this book lets Marie Antoinette speak for herself, in quotes from her letters, and conversations remembered and recorded by people who knew her.

This book is interesting, informative, and well-written. What more could you ask? It even has way more pictures than the average non-fiction book, something that I really enjoyed. At approximately 450 pages, this book might be a little long for casual reading, but I nonetheless recommend it highly.

I'm also including a few Marie Antoinette links for anyone who might be interested.

This page was created in conjunction with a PBS show about her. It has some interesting interactive features.

This page has a gallery of portraits of Marie Antoinette, all painted by Elisabeth Vigee LeBrun. So it's interesting to see the work of a woman painter in a time where painters were generally men, and also to see the variety of ways she painted Marie Antoinette.



Blogger zelda said...

I loved this book and the movie it inspired. I am also a big fan of Vigee-LeBrun.

I wonder if her name will ever be truly cleared.

7:14 PM  

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