A captivating novel of rich spectacle and royal scandal, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the fateful reign of Marie Antoinette, France’s most legendary and notorious queen.
Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.
From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.
Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow is the second installment of a trilogy based on the life of Marie Antoinette. The first novel, Becoming Marie Antoinette focused on Antoinette’s childhood and her life in France as the dauphine. Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow picks up right where Becoming Marie Antoinette left off – after the death of Louis XV. The focus of this novel is on the early reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette as France’s new, young monarchs. The novel spans 15 years, from the beginning of the reign of Louis XVI up until the beginning of the French Revolution. The third novel in the series, The Last October Sky will be released in September 2013.
I loved Becoming Marie Antoinette so I had high hopes and expectations for this novel and I have to say that I was slightly disappointed. I was expecting another fabulous novel from Juliet Grey – and for the most part it was fantastic – but there were some flaws, mainly that there were some excruciatingly slow parts in the story. It’s written in Marie Antoinette’s voice – and I have to say that Ms. Grey does a fantastic job of getting inside Marie Antoinette’s brain – and the novel is extremely well researched, informative and well written however it just didn’t pull me into the story like Becoming Marie Antoinette did. The voices of the characters were engaging and the descriptions of the clothing, masques, palaces, etc., were vibrant and beautifully written.
I also appreciate how Ms. Grey chose to portray Marie Antoinette’s – she didn’t paint her in a good light or a bad light but rather she chose to show all of her faults, her naïveté, her inexperience in a non-judgmental way. She paints a sympathetic portrait of Marie Antoinette – she is almost a woman without a real place or purpose at court. It almost gives Marie Antoinette an excuse for all of her extravagance and bad behaviour – she was simply bored and without children to occupy her time and with a husband who never consulted her during his reign, she turned to fashion and gambling to pass the time. Ms. Grey always allowed the reader to experience Marie Antoinette’s emotions and her intrapersonal battles about her desire to have children, her desire for her husband’s love and affection, her guilt of loving another man and the torture of the people of France’s cruelty towards her.
Overall, it was a pretty good read – if only those parts that dragged were a little better! I would definitely recommend this book to people who love Marie Antoinette. Even though it is the second book in a trilogy, it is also a standalone novel, although I strongly recommend reading the first novel as well. Can’t wait for the next novel!