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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Tiaras and Tyranny: A Review of The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.

Today’s review goes out to all The Royal Diaries Girlies. Today’s review is basically a Royal Diaries book all grown up. In fact I’ve already reviewed today’s book’s childhood counterpart. You can find that review here, but I’m not here to talk about children’s lit today. Nay, nay. I’m here to talk about historical fiction.

Woman putting on a tiara.
We love a royalty themed read here at RHRML.

Please give a warm welcome to The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson!

Book cover of The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson.

And as promised, I have a new Books&Lewks for you!

If you want to see these looks first then make sure to follow Reading Has Ruined My Life on Instagram and Twitter, @ReadingHasRuinedMyLife and @RHRMLBlog respectively. We have a fun time there. I post book news, you’ll get to see what I’m reading, all the Books&Lewks (including some you’ve never seen here on the blog), and memes, lots and lots of memes.

We’re not here to talk about memes though, we’re here to talk about books. So let’s get to the synopsis. As always, a spoiler alert is in order; this is your one and only warning. I also have a content warning for you. The ending is brutal. If you can’t do gore, this book’s ending isn’t for you. Seriously, The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette has descriptions that made me gag and have stayed in my head to haunt me. These images are disturbing. Revolutionary France is seriously no joke. So with that, let’s get into it.

We begin Marie Antoinette’s story when she’s jailed in France for treason and other trumped up charges. During this time she’s reminiscing on her youth in Austria and life leading up to October of 1793. The good, the bad, the ugly. She’s thinking back on all of it.

Baby Rapunzel.
Ah, the nostalgia of not being in jail for treason. Must be so sweet.

Highlights of her life include her friendship with Marie-Therese de Savoie-Carignan, known in this story as LouLou, her romance with Count Axel Ferson and his undying loyalty to her, her love of pugs, and her children. Low points include being a child bride, being ridiculed for not getting pregnant at 14, being called the problem behind all of France’s issues, and, you know, the whole imprisonment and death via guillotine thing. Lots more drastic lows compared to the highs.

That’s pretty much the entirety of this story. There’s not much to it. Well that’s a lie. This book covers almost the entirety of Marie Antoinette’s life in bite sized journal entries. It’s a very simplistic book at its core. Love that for it.

Now, it should be noted that this book is historical fiction. The author goes as far as to call this book historical entertainment. The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette is not fully factual. It is not meant to be a biography nor a retelling nor historical reconstruction. But I must say, the historical elements of this novel are…basic.

Elmo shrugging.
Honestly don't know what else to call it.

It feels like the author did the bare minimum with the research. Don’t get me wrong, the author has certainly done her research but I feel like most of the events this book covers are the ones you’d find on Marie Antoinette’s Wikipedia page. Which I get, the average reader is likely going to know about the French people descending on Versailles and demanding the royal family be imprisoned, but it’s as if the author is only highlighting those major events at times. Where are the scenes where Marie Antoinette buys a child from a peasant family? That happened but no one ever writes about that. Listen, Marie Antoinette lived a pretty full life. Chaotic at times and it definitely didn’t end well, but she lived a full life. There’s so much more to pull from than just the major events and I wished the author did that.

Seeing as this book is set up as a journal, I did expect more of those little things. A journal is a place to write down one’s inner most thoughts and desires, all those little details about one’s day, one’s hopes and dreams; yet there were times where Marie’s thoughts, feelings, and details were pretty surface level. Often times I was left wanting more.

There were definitely parts of this novel I liked though. Marie Antoinette’s characterization was one of those things. I view the real Marie Antoinette in a sympathetic light and so does this book. To an extent. I think the general consensus on Marie Antoinette is she didn’t deserve to die the way she did, but she had the power to change things in France for the better and didn’t. That’s how this novel paints her.

Marie is lowkey naïve, not as educated as she should have been, kinda ditzy, vain, prideful, and doesn’t know the value of a franc. There are multiple times where she will attempt to do something to help the general public, like donating half her yearly income to the poor and setting up women's shelters, and then she’ll turn around and begin ordering a new wardrobe that costs three million francs. It feels so realistic. It’s believable. I can picture this woman doing that. I imagine that was what she was like in real life. Marie Antoinette’s characterization is perfect in my eyes.

Woman clapping.
Claps for Marie's characterization.

Overall The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette was serviceable. Nothing in this read was something I was head over heels in love with, but I’m not mad that I read it. It is simply meh. I did enjoy this read. It’s simple average. Just nothing to write home about.

With that, I shall bid you all adieu. Thank you for joining me today on another dive into royal historical fiction. I hope you enjoyed today’s review and today’s Books&Lewks. I shall see you next week with another new review.

Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!

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