Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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

Synopsis (from Amazon): 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.

My Thoughts: Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow picks up right where Becoming Marie Antoinette (which I read and really enjoyed last year) leaves off.  Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI have now ascended the French throne and are struggling to find their place.  We follow the journey of the young royal couple as they navigate the highs and lows that come with ruling one of the greatest nations in the world.  This book was very well researched and one of the things I enjoyed most about this one and the first in the series is how real Grey makes Marie and Louis seem and how well she captures the grandeur of the French court.  I loved going inside Marie Antoinette's world and experiencing her relationships with her inner circle, the rivalries and fights for her favor (especially between her two closest friends Gabrielle de Polignac and the Princess de Lamballe), and her frustrations concerning her marriage. 

I did like this book quite a bit but I had trouble connecting to the glamorous queen as much as I did in the first book.  In Becoming Marie Antoinette it was so easy to sympathize with her because she had to go through so much just to be able to marry the Dauphin but here now that she is Queen she proves time and again how out of touch she is with how her actions and frivolous spending impact the populace.  While her decisions often come from kind hearted motives, she constantly fails to see the big picture beyond her own wants and needs and those of her friends.   I did like how she gained a great deal of maturity as she embraced motherhood.  While I appreciate the amount of period detail contained in this novel, I think the pacing moved a bit slower and I am not quite sure if it was just me or if it was because there was so much content here that it slowed it down for me.  Still, even though this took me a little longer to get through I really did enjoy it.

Juliet Grey does a wonderful job of crafting the world of this much maligned queen.  This is the second in a trilogy and I think by time I finish the third one there will not be one thing that I don't know about Marie Antoinette.  We all know the tragic end in store for Marie and Louis.  I am anxiously awaiting the third book to see this author's spin on it. 

This book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


  1. I enjoyed this one, probably not quite as much as the first, but that could of been because I wasn't as familiar with Marie's childhood, that certainly added to the fascination.

  2. I've heard great things about State of Wonder! I hope it lived up to the hype.