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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 29 November 2016
If you enjoy reading Stefan Zweig you will enjoy this as it is full of Stefan Zweig's particular wisdom, wistfulness and charm. He doesn't just give you the history, (as of course he is not a historian and the history is perhaps not the main point of this book) but why it fascinates him, what it is indeed about Marie-Antoinette, her extraordinary place in history that causes her to wriggle out of her 'mediocrity' as he terms it, and transform herself into something, finally, quite else. Sadly, the translation is awful at times.
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on 7 June 2017
One must-read work from Stefan Zweig. I got a very different French Revolution view after read this one.
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on 19 March 2017
lovely book
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on 8 October 2011
I do recommend this book by Stephen Zweig as a sensitive and well documented account of Marie Antoinette's life and death.

Being himself an historian and Austrian by birth he has a particular interest in analysing her feelings and often tragic decisions in the context of the strict etiquette of the court and the various episodes of the French revolution.

I wished S. Zweig's book could have inspired the script of the film "Marie Antoinette" instead of A. fraser's .We might have lost some glamour but would have gained more historical truth.

Beautifully translated from the German edition, you can read Stephen Zweig 's novel in French , English and probably other languages.
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on 6 March 2017
Stefan Zweig wrote his biography of Marie Antoinette in the 1930s so I expected it to be quite hard going compared to more recent fare. In fact, other than needing to look up a few words - he does employ a wide vocabulary! - I found the read to be engrossing and frequently exciting. A novelist at heart, Zweig has a good sense of pace and concentrates on portraying Antoinette as a the woman she was rather than trying to force her to conform to the moulds of heartless queen or tragic heroine. I was interested at the end to read his explanation of which historical material he chose to incorporate and quote, which was left out and, most importantly, why he made these decisions.

I was irritated at points by a creeping tone of chauvinism. Zweig 'proves' some of his theories with sweepingly generic statements that Antoinette must have believed or behaved in certain ways because that is what women do. On the whole however, I think he had a good understanding of his subject and his biography is obviously well researched. Descriptions of Versailles, Trianon and the Tuileries are rich in detail which brough the Rococo period very much to life for me. I was also able to envisage the chief players as real people rather than having them obscured by dry dates. Having not known much detail of this period of French history before I am now intrigued to discover more. I am also keen to read more of Zweig's books both more biography and perhaps examples of his fiction too.
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'Not to idolise, not to deify, but to humanise, is the supreme task of creative psychological study'

True to his intention to 'humanise', Zweig gives us an eminently readable account of Marie Antoinette, a woman he describes as 'one who had abundant capacity and very little will'. The tone is halfway between novel and historical biography so is perfect for anyone who struggles with the drier historians. The focus, too, stays on Marie Antoinette herself, without skimping on the political background and the Revolution. With an eye on her marriage, her love-life and her inner emotions, this offers up a fully-fleshed woman as well as a queen. Hugely enjoyable.
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on 9 April 2013
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on 26 March 2013
Anyone who is interested in history, and in particular the time of the French Revolution, will enjoy reading Stefan Zweig's biography of Marie Antoinette. I have always considered her to be a lightweight, ineffectual character, cocooned in a life of luxury and extravagance at Versailles with no interest in affairs of state or the growing hostility of an impoverished French nation, but this well-researched book delves deep into the personality of Marie Antoinette. Whilst a lot of what most of us know about her is true, the author explores aspects of her early upbringing and arrival in France which confirm that she was a victim of circumstance who never realised her potential as a monarch until it was too late. Quite simply, she was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Towards the end of her life, I felt an increasing sympathy towards her, and by the end of the book she had finally redeemed herself in my eyes, showing great guts,determination, and strength of character. She went to her death a brave and proud queen. A fantastic book!
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on 23 April 2013
I can't recommend this book enough to anyone interested in the background of Marie Antoinette. One can only feel sorry for her, being sent as a young girl to face an arranged marriage in a foreign country. She was ill-prepared for her role as a wife and heavily criticized by the French people, firstly as a foreigner and subsequently when she failed to produce a child for many years. She seemed to have good intentions, but her actions were often misconstrued. She was never completely accepted by the French people. Whatever your views of the royal family, It does seem as though they were swept along by the traditions already established at court and their ultimate downfall was inextricably tied in with the rising tide of discontent amongst the populace of France.
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on 24 May 2013
I have always loved reading historical books and novels, and this one on a very misunderstood woman like the late Queen of France does not disappoint. True, I haven't finished it yet. However, what I have read so far, it gives an objective, sometimes harsh account on Marie Antoinette's personality and her inexcusable disregard of her subject's reality. Zweig does not spare sympathy, empathy or understanding at all. The lady's portrait lacks of romanticism or a pinkish images only provided on movies and that why the reading is so compelling and hard to put down. In the end I am starting to feel sorry for an adolescent who only served as a political bait into a marriage with tragic consequences.
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