I've picked up and put down this book many times over my course of ownership, lured in by the deckled pages and thrown out by the flowery prose. I've finally finished it and it was decent enough for me to be able to finally put it down, last paged turned, after 24 hours.
Abundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette, by Sena Jeter Naslund, is, as the title suggests, a book about that ill-fated queen from the time she arrive in France until her death at the hands of the French Revolution years later. Naslund does a decent job at portraying Marie Antoinette's growth from blithe little girl thrust into a political marriage to a mature queen and mother who loves the French people, but doesn't truly understand them. Teamed up with an idealistic but weak King Louis XVI, the doomed queen is swept up into political events that she can't possibly control.
One thing I liked about Naslund's novel is that it shows Marie Antoinette's sympathetic, but romanticized view of the peasantry. At her own secluded hamlet away from the intrigue of Versailles, the queen apes the farming life of her subjects and fancies living a simple life. Yet, milkmaids do not strip milk from their cows into porcelain buckets and shepardesses do not employ nannies to accompany their children on afternoon walks. Marie Antoinette wears diamond and pearl jewelry while preaching taxation of the country's nobility. Her life is a farce.
Still, Naslund takes a very generous view of the queen and grants her faults while also giving her charming characteristics. The book itself is much like the character: well-meaning, but flowery and given to flights of fancy. It can be difficult to work through if you don't have patience with purple prose. However, if you take the time to find the meaning behind the babble, it's a book as charming as its subject.