Name of Book: Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow
By: Juliet Grey
Copyright Date: May 15, 2012
Format: historical fiction
Reason for Reading: to continue the series
Source: my Kindle
Louix XI has ascended the throne. Now that Marie Antoinette is no longer dauphine, she begins to arrange her household to her liking. She gets rid of Madame Etiquette and promotes her close friend Princesse Lamballe. Antoinette has little use for the archaic rules of perquisites and assignations, which earns her plenty of enemies. The shine she had initially upon entry to France quickly wears off once she becomes queen. She and the king still have yet to consummate their marriage, which leaves her situation more precarious than ever.
This second installment takes us through the years immediately following Louis XI’s ascension through the first stirrings of revolution. We bear witness to the burgeoning friendship between the queen and Count von Fersen, the Diamond Necklace Affair, and the French assistance to the American Revolution.
I looked forward to this second installment the moment I finished Becoming Marie Antoinette. It has been a really long time that I felt that excited about a new release. I even purchased this book the exact day that it came out. The last time that happened was last summer when I purchased Bloodlines the moment it hit bookstands.
So it was to my great disappointment that I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I did the first novel. I devoured Becoming Marie Antoinette. I raved about it to anyone who would listen. It was one of my favorite books read in 2011. I admit to getting lost with all the titles. Also, there didn’t seem to be as much action and Antoinette’s inner life didn’t seem as rich as it did in the first installment. My enjoyment could also have been dampened from reading Antonia Fraser’s nonfiction account of Marie Antoinette’s life earlier this year.
I did enjoy the way Grey told the story of the Diamond Necklace Affair. She captured the intrigue and highlighted the motivations of the characters involved. This affair, as ridiculous as it was, did highlight another consequence of Antoinette’s grudges. If she had been more forgiving of the Cardinal this whole affair may never have taken place. Popular opinion about the queen was already pretty low around this time. This injustice to the queen just made it even worse.
This installment does do a great job of showing all the elements brewing that made revolution in France possible. I felt acutely for Antoinette being in a foreign land without family or friends. I understand her need of keeping those she could trust close, as she could trust hardly anyone. However, I also see how the changes she made embittered this foreign court that she married into. This combined with the king’s extreme indecisiveness and the royal army going off to America to fight makes it seem inevitable that the revolution would eventually reach French shores.
Despite my disappointment with this installment, I’m glad I read it. I look forward to completing the trilogy when the final book comes out. Reading these stories has piqued my interest in the French Revolution. I was fascinated by the French perspective on the American Revolution. I’d love to learn more. And it is interesting to ponder what our country would be if the French hadn’t bothered to involve themselves on our behalf. We could very well be British today if they hadn’t.