Marie Antoinette's Darkest Days

PRISONER NO. 280 IN THE CONCIERGERIE

This scholarly work thoroughly documents Marie Antoinette’s imprisonment, trial, and execution. Bashor (Marie Antoinette’s Head, 2013, etc.), a professor of global issues at Franklin University, tells the story of Marie Antoinette’s last 10 weeks by drawing on contemporary sources as well as modern scholarship. The king was executed in January 1793; on Aug. 2, 1793, when this book begins, Marie Antoinette was taken to the Conciergerie prison in Paris. Her trial began on Oct. 14, and two days later she was found guilty and sent to the guillotine. Bashor describes the damp, filthy prison’s privations; attempts to help or rescue the queen; the revolutionary tribunal and the monarch’s trial with its prosecutor, indictment, jury, witnesses, testimony, and sentencing; and Marie Antoinette’s final moments. In all this, the author provides novelistic and empathetic attention to detail and personalities, as when he notes that Marie Antoinette recorded the heights of her children on the prison wall or how she kept busy by converting toothpicks into tapestry needles. He marshals a wide array of evidence, carefully distinguishing likely and trustworthy accounts from less believable ones and sorting out confusing episodes such as the Carnation Plot. In his readable book, Bashor shows that the Vienna-born Marie Antoinette, as a foreigner (and, probably, as a woman), became a scapegoat for the mob’s rage and that her trial was a sham. But while conceding that Marie Antoinette was “well known for her lavish expenditures and frivolous lifestyle,” he seems as puzzlingly reluctant as the queen to connect all the dots between that frivolity and the scapegoating. And while Marie Antoinette suffered in the Conciergerie, so did all his majesty’s prisoners before her, some no less innocent than herself. That the queen loved her children and went to her death with noble poise has captured much admiration—certainly Bashor’s—but this ought surely to be seen in the context of aristocratic France’s overwhelming human tragedies, which can never be told in so much detail. Extensive notes, a selected bibliography, and index are included. Impressive, well-researched, useful, and accessible, though some readers may feel that the book’s sympathies for the doomed queen remain misplaced.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4422-5499-2

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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