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Marie Antoinette's Darkest Days



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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.

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Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4422-5499-2

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016


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

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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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