Fiction: “The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette” by Carolly Erickson

antoinetteAfter the incompleteness of Perry Mason, I turned to the supposed fluff of this novel. I’ve tended towards fictionalized takes on famous women in history – it’s one of the reasons I’m rereading Wideacre; if I can complete the Wideacre trilogy, I should then be able to finally read The Other Boleyn Girl – and this one happened to be on the New Fiction shelf at my Local LibraryTM.

It turned out to be a very frustrating book, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I would sit down to read it and about eighty pages would fly by in one sitting. But then I wouldn’t pick it up for three days, because I felt no need to continue reading.

Another problem I had with it: it seemed as if there wasn’t a plot. And yes, I understand that Marie’s life journey was plot enough, but … honestly, it’s a problem I have had with previous epistolary novels (with the exception of Dracula. Someday I’ll reread that – I think that will make reread #4). I’m sure it’s a problem for people who read my private journal – that situations are introduced the day they happen, and discussed, but there never seems to be an adequate resolution. The same goes for Hidden Diary: Marie-as-Narrator never really digs deep into things, as the entire premise of the novel is that she’s reporting on things that happen to her as they happen to her.

And let’s say that a certain particular entry had a lot of important stuff happen. For instance:

… We said our prayers for the dead. There were many who died, for the cannon had fired into the crowd of people as they milled in the outer courtyard and later the cavalry had ridden into their midst, the soldiers slashing at them right and left with their sharp swords. All afternoon carts came and went,
loaded with bodies. Fresh sand was sprinkled in the courtyard to cover the blood. Tomorrow, Abbe Vermond told me, the gate will be repaired and soon there will be no signs left to show that anything at all went on today.

There will be no signs, but I will remember.

[Next entry] How hot it is! I long to plunge into a cool lake wearing nothing but my chemise but I can never do that here. One afternoon Loulou and Yolande and I escaped to the Petit Trianon and ran in the fountains. [88]

See? I’m all, “but what happened with the gate? Did the rebels come back? What’s going on?” It almost feels like an episode of Lost: Just when something exciting happens, the episode ends – on a cliffhanger, naturally – and then next week, it’s like nothing ever happened and we’re learning about how Jack got his tattoos.

And maybe it’s a problem of mine, that I’m not entirely familiar with Marie Antoinette’s character, and I realize that it’s probably because we’re taught that Marie (and Louis, let’s not keep him out of this) was completely extravagant in the years leading up to the French Revolution. But it’s not really dealt with in this novel. And yeah, I believe that the reason it’s not dealt with is again, because it’s ‘written’ from Marie’s perspective, and if she doesn’t recognize her faults, she’s not going to write about them.

Anyway. I felt that this novel was a very vague look at the Queen, and honestly? I was disappointed by it. Not enough to stop reading it, although I considered it – it’s not like I didn’t know how the story was going to end. But I’m not even tempted to read Ms. Erickson’s novel about the Russian Revolution and the whole Anastasia thing, because I don’t want to be bored.

So I’m rereading Wideacre right now, so that I can finally get through the Wideacre trilogy. I’m also reading something called Good Girl Gone Bad, and no, it’s not Rihanna’s biography. This one is complete Midwestern Philosophy. I also started Watchmen last night, so I expect I’ll be talking about those three shortly.

I hope.

Grade for The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette: 1.5 stars

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