Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, by Caroline Weber

                                              

I will admit, I don't usually do book reviews. At least, on here. I'll talk about my addiction to goodreads.com in another time, another post. I LOVE YOU GOODREADS!!! *pants*

....anyway. I decided last night (a bad time to make definite decisions, for the record) that I was going to finally do a book review on here, and I was surprised at how easily I picked my choice. I quickly ruled out Book Thief by Markus Zusak, because then this post would be way too long for even a saint to read, and I would give out too many spoilers. I also ruled out The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield for similar reasons (though I may do Thirteenth Tale anyway, just for grins and giggles). 

So obviously, I had to do the biography of Marie Antoinette.

Let me explain: in school, at the beginning of second semester, we were assigned a project in my World Literature block. It was a three month assignment to research anything under the sun and make a final essay. Or should I say thesis, since it was long enough, and had the trademark blood, sweat, and tear stains on the final copy?? But anyway, I did mine on how fashion reflected Marie Antoinette's life and how it ultimately caused her downfall. And one of the books I read for it is the one I am to review for you now. Now, let me just write down a warning: this book became my life for those months; it never left my side, and it basically became the centre of my universe. I became so obsessed with Marie Antoinette, that all I would read or watch were biographies/ documentaries about her, and my parents were glad when the assignment ended so they could stop worrying about my precarious sanity balancing on a guillotine blade. 

So let us begin, shall we?

The book goes chronologically, beginning at when Marie left Austria for France at fourteen to marry Louis Auguste (Louis XVI), and ends with her execution in 1793 to debut the Reign of Terror. It explains how her fashion was intertwined inherently with how her life would end, and her life in general. 

Weber does an amazing job in giving a side of Marie Antoinette's life history shuts off, simply because she is the person people love to hate. Humans all need a person to hate, and at that period, it was the Queen. Some things I learned in this book include, but are not limited to: ripping her away from her homeland forever; not allowing her to take her beloved dog over to France with her ("she could have as many French dogs as she pleased"); seeing her best friend's head stuck on a pike and paraded in front of her window without mercy; taking her toddler son away from her in jail, and neglecting him so that he died of malnutrition; and finally, not allowing her husband to say goodbye to her before they cut off his head. 

I love this book because it offers a strong opinion, and gives you the rest of the book to have no choice but agree. But Weber cites every fact and quote she gives, to the point that the citation section at the end of the book makes up a solid half inch of the pages. She offers both her opinion and the facts, but uses the facts to her advantage without bending them, which many writers struggle with. 

Weber also makes this seem less a biography, than a novel which ascends genre. It has so many different genre elements, so that it reads like fictional book, has the facts of a textbook, the plot of a nonfiction, the character of a biography, the lyrical writing of a poem, and the ability to stir your sympathy like that of a particularly tragic obituary. 

When I turned the final page, my emotions can only be described by John Green: "sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird, evangelical zeal and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless all living humans READ THE BOOK."

I can see why my parents got a little worried about me.

The main reason I loved it, though, is because it proves a point far beyond the French Revolution: that fashion is an integral part of the history of humankind. In places such as ancient China, there were laws which allowed only certain classes to wear certain colours and fabrics; in Scotland, every family had its own clan colours, which they alone could wear. Fashion was a source of power and a sign of status, and even now, it is used as a medium of expression and a way to mark ourselves as different from every other man or woman. 

Weber conveyed that by using Marie Antoinette, because who else could you write an entire book about their clothes alone? Well, maybe Empress Cixi, but let us not get into that can of worms quite yet.

Because of this book, I think I'll always have a special place in my heart just for Marie Antoinette, and will never tire of lecturing others when they call her a spoiled little queen with a shopping problem.

If you, too, would like to read the book (which you should, because it will make you more smarticalz), you can buy it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. However, if you need more convincing about how amazing this book is, you can go to Goodreads for more reviews and information.

If you do not read le livre, you will be judged.


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