Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review: Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey


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.

Publication Date: May 15, 2012 | Ballantine Books | 448p

My Review

4 Stars

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow is the second novel in Juliet Grey's Marie Antoinette trilogy.   While the first novel in the trilogy, Becoming Marie Antoinette, follows Marie's early life from her late childhood in Austria to her days as Dauphine of France, this latest novel focuses on Marie's reign as Louis XVI's Queen.

Much like the first novel in the trilogy, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow is full of rich historical detail.   This detail brings the French court and all of its magnificence vividly to life.   It also showcases just how much of Marie Antoinette's daily life was governed by strict and often stifling protocol.  Although the historical detail was, at times, somewhat overdone in the trilogy's first installment, this isn't the case with the second novel.  It is apparent that Grey undertook a great deal of research while writing this book, but rather than overpowering the narrative, the information gleaned from this research is used to complement it.  As a result, the story flows smoothly and moves quickly.    

Told from Marie Antoinette's perspective, one of this novel's greatest strengths is the characterization of Marie herself.   History has not been kind to Marie Antoinette, and it is not difficult to understand why considering much of the French court and citizenry were against her.  Highlighting Marie's strengths and her weaknesses, Grey paints a sympathetic portrait of France's last queen, successfully  showcasing how she matured as both a person and a monarch.  Grey's characterization of Louis XVI is also well-drawn, showing an uncertain monarch who very much wanted to do what was right for his people but who lacked the respect and support needed to bring about change. 

Although this novel is the second in a trilogy, it can be read as a stand-alone.  Recommended to fans of historical fiction interested in French history. 

Marie Antoinette's story continues in The Last October Sky, which will be released in 2013.  

Note: The novel comes from my own collection as I had purchased the book prior to agreeing to take part in the tour.

About the Author

Juliet Grey is the author of Becoming Marie Antoinette. She has extensively researched European royalty and is a particular devotee of Marie Antoinette, as well as a classically trained professional actress with numerous portrayals of virgins, vixens, and villainesses to her credit. She and her husband divide their time between New York City and southern Vermont.  

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow is currently on tour.   You can check out all the tour stops here: