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Bill_T
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Registered: ‎03-20-2007
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Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

What did you know about Marie Antoinette before reading this novel? About the Reign of Terror? What surprised you most as you read?
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marcialou
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

Like most people, I would guess, I thought MA said "Let them eat cake." I thought she was callous, frivolous, and a extravagant. Now I see that she was not callous, and although she was frivolous and extravagant, she was also loyal to her family and her friends, and cared about the French people in a vague sort of way. By that I mean she was generous to people she met, but she didn't seem to have a grasp of the big picture or what could be done to actually better the lives of the ordinary people.

Marcia
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mx6stcy
Posts: 29
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

I have known for some time that it is no longer believed that MA said "...let them eat cake." I don't remember where I first heard this, but I do know that while I believed she said this I had no interest in her. I just couldn't identify with that attitude toward her people. Once I heard that she wasn't as awful as she had been made out to be, I was more interested in knowing who she really was. Since history is a favorite subject for me I did have a general knowledge of the "Reign of Terror." It certainly must have been a frightening time to live, in the end no one was safe. I'm still working on finishing this book (I'll be reading all day) but in most of the books I've read on Marie and Louis, I'm still in awe of the fact that they weren't given more direction or encouragement in ruling their people. It seems that while Louis XV was alive, they were allowed any indulgence and given almost NO responsibility. Most of what I've read has been historical fiction but after this one I think I may read a little more on historical fact. I've read a great deal more on the Tudor family. It seems in England that there was much more emphasis placed on teaching the heir to rule - while they were still an heir and not a monarch with almost no inclination to, or understanding of, how to successfully run a country!
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NLane
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Registered: ‎07-27-2007
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

I really didn't know much about Marie Antoinette before I watched Sofia Coppola's movie, and now even more from reading Sena Jeter Naslund's book.

The thing that surprised me the most is not only did MA surround herself with lavish entertainment and belongings, but she also gave extravagant amounts to help her friend Yolande de Polignac have a higher standard of living and a higher place in society. But she not only helped Yolande and her husband- but she also helped Yolande's father and mother, her whole family.

I think if I were a citizen of France I would feel a great resentment towards MA for this, as I'm sure those who knew this was going on did.

On the other hand, I suppose MA couldn't be friends with a commoner, or someone who didn't wear the right fashion and jewels, so maybe MA felt she had to do this in order to be friends with Yolande. Honestly, I don't think I could be best friends with someone like the Princess de Lamballe for long. Someone who has no thoughts or opinions for herself, simply following whoever chooses to lead her and involve her in their life.
jd
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jd
Posts: 326
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

I agree - I understand she was young and had been raised as a royal but it seems she was unable to control her spending habits. She not only needed clothes and the right friends but she also needed several little houses and villages and theatres to keep herself amused. Women were such ornaments at this time, even the Queen was not much more. What I find amazing is that her mother was a ruling, in charge mama and MA somehow missed the lesson being taught and waited for someone else to suggest her next move - i.e., Mercy or a religious adviser. -jd
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driamaria
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

Reading these comments, it seems that it has been forgotten that MA was a teenager when she was first married. And I don't know about you, but I certainly don't know any teenagers that have the maturity, experience or capacity to rule a country. Actually, I'm not sure if I know any adults that would be up to the challenge, myself included. Before critcisms are given of MA's ruling ability or lack thereof, I think we have to remember that she's still just a child, and as humanity has learned since, in no position to be given responsibility for an entire country.
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ukduchess
Posts: 24
Registered: ‎03-29-2007
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

I knew very little about MA before I watched the movie that recently came out and I had seen a little bit about her on tv. Like the other readers, I am amazed at how little guidance the young couple was given before they were expected to rule a country. They really couldn't help but fail.
"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."

— Jorge Luis Borges
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kiakar
Posts: 3,435
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

I think some reasons of Marie's spending problems stemmed from loniness and being a mere child away from her mother with only directions from her letters. Others including the fact she wanted the child that would make her mother to a king. /The prince had problems with initimacy so she didn't feel she would ever have that child. She tried to occupy her time with gambling,parties, homes,theatres all in the fact she was very lonely. I have read some of when she had children but don't remember if her spending habits changed any.
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Tiffany129
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Registered: ‎08-05-2007
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

I also got the impression that she was lonely and maybe even a little bored. There are too many examples of her compassion and concern for others to simply dismiss her as selfish and indulgent. She wanted nothing more than to be a good wife and queen and to produce an heir to make everyone happy. In the beginning of the book Louis seems to have little interest in her, which must have been devastating, so she turned to her friends and other interests.
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kiakar
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie



Tiffany129 wrote:
I also got the impression that she was lonely and maybe even a little bored. There are too many examples of her compassion and concern for others to simply dismiss her as selfish and indulgent. She wanted nothing more than to be a good wife and queen and to produce an heir to make everyone happy. In the beginning of the book Louis seems to have little interest in her, which must have been devastating, so she turned to her friends and other interests.





And I am quite sure she didn't know why Louis couldn't perform his husbandly duties. It made her feel that she was at fault also. As a immature teen she turned to other divices to divert her pain and agony.
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Fozzie
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

I had heard of MA prior to reading the novel, but that was about it. To me, everything in the book will be new information. I wouldn't say that anything has surprised me yet, but I am only through Act One. I will have to revisit this question once I have completed the book.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
jd
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jd
Posts: 326
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

When louie and MA ascend the throne they state that they feel they are too young to rule. I agree, but some of the advisers were equally to blame for their troubles. Much of France at this time seems to be in turmoil, flour riots, financing the american revolution, and the entitled and blood sucking nobility. I wonder what they were thinking financing the american revolution and not thinking that such a thing would spread to their own country but only that they could defeat England. Hmm - some one was asleep at the wheel don't you think? -jd
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ezerwekh
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

I really did not know much at all about MA. I knew she was not responsible for saying "Let them eat cake!" and I knew she was an interesting female in history. I had seen Sophia Coppola's film "Marie Antionette" and became intrigued to learn more. I picked up Abundance shortly after seeing the film.

In reading Abundance I really felt for MA. The way I read her portrayal in the book was as someone who was a little misunderstood because of her station in life. You know what they say when you assume.....I also began to feel that the people of France judged and treated their royalty harshly at that time. I guess that makes sense since it all lead to and revolved around their revolution. I really felt for MA. She was human just like the rest of us. I can not imagine living a life like hers.
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Cheyenne
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Registered: ‎08-13-2007
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie

I had read several books about Marie Antoinette as a teenager, but that was some time ago. I also watched Sofia Coppola's movie but I was under the impression that it was not completely historically accurate.

Reading the opening chapters of Abundance, I was reminded at how very young MA was when she was sent to France. I also seem to remember that MA was not really that well-prepared intellectually for her future role, although that wasn't covered in the book.
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viva2
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Registered: ‎08-05-2007
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Re: Opening Discussion: Knowing Marie


Bill_T wrote:
What did you know about Marie Antoinette before reading this novel? About the Reign of Terror? What surprised you most as you read?




I knew only what I had been told in school about Marie Antoinette. There was nothing there that interested me even so much as to cause me to see the recent movie about MA.

I have not delved deeply into the Reign of Terror, but do know enough that I wish to know more, to be able to compare and contrast the revolutions in America and, later, in the more savage one in France.

My greatest surprise in reading "Abundance" is how much I have come to care for MA and about what will be happening next to her in the book. There are surprises at every turn as I read the book, discovering the new-to-me Marie Antoinette. It takes a skilled writer to hook me again and again throughout the book.

In the beginning, I am amazed at the sweetness of the fourteen year old child bride trying so hard to please and fit in and bring credit to her family of orgin while adapting so well to her new husband, family and court. This is not at all what I had expected of the MA from my past.

Sena has managed to turn me around completely and make me care, within so short a space in the book. I am willing to suspend disbelief and follow this delightful, vital young woman on her trip through life, cherishing each moment in her foreshortened life, both her triumphs and her failures. The knowledge that MA will die so horribly undoubtedly helps me to wish for her happiness while it is possible in her doomed life. Sena has created a Marie Antoinette who, while flawed, still keeps trying to do good and to live a dutiful life, even while living a life of unimaginable privilege and luxury for which she was born and bred.

I am fascinated to see her grow in maturity despite the frivolities of court life.
I am appalled to see the Dauphin and Dauphine become King and Queen at such a young age, (22 and 23, if I remember aright?) with no obvious preparation for the gravity and duties of their new roles.

I am still only toward the end of Act Four and am finding that it is more difficult to read about what is beginning to happen to her, as the dire forbodings begin to rise with the introduction of the duplicitous Cardinal de Rohan and his amoral cohorts in the scandal of the diamond necklace. Prior to this there have only been passing references to yellow press invectives against MA, her husband and royals in general.

Now the suspense builds for me, and I have the feeling that the walls are beginning to close in on her. Sena does a wonderful job of humanizing MA so fully that we are pulling for her to do well throughout her life and now, as one ominous happening follows another.

I am surprised at how accessible Marie Antoinette feels to us over two hundred years later and in our vastly different way of life. We are pulled seamlessly into the French Court, into the Dauphine's bedchamber, into her tete-a-tetes with courtiers, into her everyday life, as if she were someone we might be able and willing to know.
How very amazing and what a gift that is! All thanks to Sena.
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