Erickson (Lilibet: An Intimate Portrait of Elizabeth II, 2004, etc.) tries to get inside the mind of Marie Antoinette and winds up reinventing her as a Harlequin romance-style heroine.
As represented in this fictional diary, which she began keeping at age 13, Marie Antoinette is no Mensa candidate, to be sure—but what leading lady in a melodrama is? Like girls her age, she’s obsessed with boys and her burgeoning libido. Unlike other girls, however, she’s forced into an arranged marriage to the heir to the throne of France at age 14. Leaving her home and family is understandably traumatic, and, as any student of European history knows, the hits just keep on coming. Her life has all the makings of a prime-time soap opera, and we’re in for a sudsy ride as young Antoinette falls for her stablehand, marries pudgy prince Louis XVI, gets sexual tips from the local courtesan, is indoctrinated into the malicious backbiting world of the King’s court, becomes Queen, takes a gallant Swedish lover and pops out a few kids. Between parties and bouts of swooning over her Swede, Antoinette develops an affection for and loyalty to her dotty, neurotic husband. She also becomes increasingly aware that something is amiss in her adopted country—why are those pesky peasants throwing mud at the palace gates? Oh! It’s because they’re starving! Her diary entries at age 30 are strikingly similar to those at 14, only her interests have widened to include fashion, sex and palace politics, i.e., bossing people around. When the French Revolution comes pounding at her door, she’s struck dumb by its severity. As the public cries for her blood, she finally grasps the seriousness of the situation, and, seemingly overnight, becomes tender-hearted and goes to the guillotine with her head held high.
More pulp romance than historical fiction.