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 yet another novel 
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There is a new novel about our queen about to be published. It is called "Abundance: A Novel of Marie-Antoinette" by Sena Jeter Naslund, an American lady. She is the author of several books. Has anyone read or heard of any of her other work?


Sun Apr 02, 2006 7:56 pm
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Never heard about this writer... I just hope she's not surfing on the Antoinettomania wave ! :wink:

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Sun Apr 02, 2006 8:23 pm
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I never heard of Mrs Naslund before either. I do hope it is about the real Antoinette and not just a romance with her name stamped on it. Oh, Pimprenelle, you are so right about that Antoinettomania wave! :roll: The internet is full of her, much of it erroneous. We have a long way to go in educating people about the truth!!


Sun Apr 02, 2006 8:36 pm
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Thank you for saying that, dear Therese, it's very kind of you...

There's also a Louismania, that French surfers already call Louloumania. I find this nickname delightful ! It's good to see that most of the French surfers I talk to ceased to destroy one of these sovereigns to rehabilitate the other.

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Sun Apr 02, 2006 9:19 pm
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LOL!! Louloumania!! That is very funny!!

But seriously, Pimprenelle, I am so glad that people, especially the French, are rehabilitating dear Louis XVI simultaneously with his beloved queen. The two of them supported each other and would be horrified at how people blame one for the other's problems. Louis wept in deepest sorrow for all that Antoinette suffered during the Revolution and all that she had been through on his account, and the worst he mercifully did not live to see. She did not blame him and would not leave him although they sometimes disagreed. (What married couple agrees all the time?)


Sun Apr 02, 2006 9:32 pm
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AntoinetteMania how true :lol:


Tue Apr 04, 2006 1:08 am
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"Abundance" official website
http://www.senajeternaslund.com/abundance.html
with book excerpt, bibliography and author interview (copied here):

An Interview with Sena Jeter Naslund


Q: What drew you to writing a novel about Marie Antoinette?

The story of Marie Antoinette has fascinated and frightened me since I was a child. To me, it was a reverse fairy-tale--not a story about a deserving poor girl who became a princess but one about a princess who lost her position and power. I knew that if such a reversal could occur in the life of a queen, then no person was safe. For me, this vulnerability represented the basic human condition. Then the question became for me "How can we face adversity, even death?" I thought I might learn something from imagining the Marie Antoinette story.
Also, the sheer splendor of her world--both its beautiful artificiality and its earthy realism--fascinated me. Like Marie Antoinette, I too have loved flowers, music, theatre; like her, my family and friends mean more to me than I can say.

Q: AHAB'S WIFE was celebrated by scholars and critics as a kind of "feminist corrective." Is ABUNDANCE, with its intimate portrait of one of the most maligned and arguably misunderstood female figures in history, performing a similar act of revision--or reassessment?

Yes. I think the historical treatment of Marie Antoinette has been motivated, in part, by the tendency to demonize women. She's been depicted as a sort of sinful Eve, responsible if not for the fall of humankind then for the fall of the French monarchy. Most people associate her with heartless materialism, with the phrase "Let them eat cake"--if they have no bread--but there's no historical evidence that she ever said such a thing. She displayed many more acts of kindness and compassion throughout her life than I had space to include in the novel.
With AHAB'S WIFE, I wanted to create a female fictive character of intelligence and courage, one capable of sustaining an epic quest for meaning that was both physical and metaphysical. When we look at the American literary landscape, we see far too few such creations. With ABUNDANCE, I wanted to explore the complexity of a woman who has been included in the historical picture but usually misrepresented.

Q: How does ABUNDANCE relate to your most recent novel FOUR SPIRITS? In some ways, they seem worlds apart.


In FOUR SPIRITS I wanted to affirm the value of every individual life (including four unknown African-American school girls--who were actually killed in the American civil rights movement). I wanted to say that the same principle applies to the well-known and the privileged, even to a person who occupies a throne: all of us share a basic humanity; we're born and we die. Every life is precious. Questions about justice and the nature of government arise in both books.

Q ABUNDANCE seems to be an ideal choice for book clubs, as there are so many possible threads and directions to pursue--threads that go well beyond the scope of the discussion prompts in this guide. If you were somehow able to participate anonymously in a group discussion of ABUNDANCE, what subjects and themes would you most want to explore?


I've already found that my readers vary widely in how sympathetic they are to Marie Antoinette. In some ways, she is a kind of mirror that reflects our attitudes toward ourselves. To what extent does she deserve praise or blame? The idea of "goodness" expands for her as she matures--how have I evolved morally, spiritually, as a friend, as a family member, in political awareness, she asks me. I'd like for readers to tell me, if they trusted me enough to be that honest with me, how the life of Marie Antoinette might illumine life as we live it.
I always like to learn which parts of my novels readers particularly enjoyed or found meaningful.


Q: Which of the secondary characters in the novel particularly interested you? Would you consider writing about any of them?


I wanted to know and understand Marie Antoinette's women friends more--the surprising Princess de Lamballe, the manipulative Duchess de Polignac, the self-made portrait painter Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun. In all my novels the central women characters need and establish close friendships with other women who often differ widely from one another. We know of these historical women I've just named mainly because they were the queen's friends, but they each had lives of their own--strengths and weaknesses--and I'd like to know more about them.
And of course Axel von Fersen is an endlessly intriguing character--he liked American woman a lot while he was helping Washington with the American revolution--and I'd love to explore him more.

Q: Is it fair to call your depiction of Marie Antoinette's relationship with Fersen deliberately ambiguous?


Yes, it is. I read a great deal about this relationship in various biographies all of which disagreed some or completely with one another. I don't think the historic record allows a conclusive reading at this point.

Q: Do you believe they ever had a physical relationship?


Actually, I'd rather not say. However, I would like to add this information (not in the novel because the book is limited to Marie Antoinette's point of view): historically, Fersen definitely did have many sexual relationships with a great many women though his deepest love and total loyalty also remained with the Queen. How can I make this dual claim? I see his sensibility as basically that of an earlier age: he is a chivalric knight devoted to his lady; this devotion is like that of a medieval Christian who lives in the world yet profoundly venerates the Virgin Mary.
I would love to write a novel about the paradoxical Axel von Fersen.

Q: Where and to what time period, will you be taking your readers next?


So many novels I'd like to write! So little time. The question of time and place is certainly a crucial one, more so than that of subject matter or thematic material because my fiction always embodies ideas that are important to me. I've worked so hard in researching the 18th century that in some ways, I'd like to stay there--not necessarily to write about Fersen. There are many other wonderful characters of that era. I recently visited St. Petersburg and Moscow because Maire Antoinette's friend and portrait painter Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun considered Russia to be her second home, after she fled the French revolution and traveled through Europe. But I'd also like to draw on my own life and times, as I did in FOUR SPIRITS, set in Birmingham, but this time about the street where I live now, literally, in Louisville, and about a woman of my own age and experience. And in just the last few weeks, I've had yet a third idea, one that would carry me very far back in time and yet partake of the present. It's a riddle. I'm enjoying puzzling about my next project. I love the act of imagining, the polishing, the creating of an artifact in words.

Q: What are your ideas about what fiction can capture or reveal that biography or history cannot?

Every form has its own powers. Fiction takes us inside, through imagination, in the way that an objective reporting or picturing of external actions or behavior cannot. I have always seen the imagination as a great spiritual and moral force because it helps to take us beyond the bounds of ego. But all the ways of knowing are complementary to each other. Lately Marie Antoinette has been the object of films: while films picture appearances, novels augment those visual impressions by transporting us inside the character: we can look out through the eyes of another person and also know that person's secret thoughts and feelings, which are beyond the reach of the camera. Fiction can make history seem more alive and thus more kin to life as we know it.

Q: Just to return for a moment to ABUNDANCE: An especially affecting element in your novel is the recurring image of young Mozart in Marie Antoinette's memories and dreams. His haunting, pleading refrain, "Now do you love me?" seems to inspire in Marie Antoinette powerful feelings of identification and empathy. Talk to us a little bit about this thematic linking of Marie Antoinette and Mozart.

She did hear him play the harpsichord for her mother at court in Austria; the two were the same age. In her subconscious, Mozart did what she would have liked to have done--to occupy her mother's lap and to demand her mother's love and acceptance. Mozart had the audacity of genius, even as a very young child. Marie Antoinette had the gifts of great personal charm and grace, and she also truly loved music. It was only at the end of her life that she became her own parent--forgiving, accepting, and affirming her own nature.

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Mon Oct 02, 2006 9:20 am
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I am reading "Abundance" and it is very slow-going. Yes, Madame de Polignac is described as very manipulative in the Naslund novel, as well as morally dissolute, yet another aspect of the novel which is a cliche. "Adundance" is not very well researched and many of the details are ridiculous. Dr Naslund seems to think that Silesia was part of Bavaria. What? The characterizations are weak. One never gets a feel for the different personalities of the royal family. In some ways it is like reading the book version of the Coppola film. And the same old Fersen obsession, although at least Naslund does have them jumping into bed together. And at least she includes Madame Elisabeth, who is described in a sweet and ethereal way, as is Madame de Lamballe.

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Mon Oct 02, 2006 11:24 am
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Indeed Therese this book seems to be a worthy successor of the Coppola's film...
It will be a pleasure if there will have a pause on the pseudo love history with Fersen and on the character manipulator of Polignac!

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Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:07 pm
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Alas... The public enjoy tragical love stories and bad genius... We are just back into Walt Dysney's "Snow White" ! :lol: Ready to play the seven dwarfs, guys ? :lol:

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Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:20 pm
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I think that the only novelists who deliver us from the Fersen fantasy are Chantal Thomas and Elena Maria Vidal. I am afraid that "Abundance" is not of the same calibre of those authors' books, except for the parts that appear to be lifted right out of Vidal's "Trianon." Naslund is not an original or creative writer. Her other books, such as "Sherlock in Love" and "Ahab's Wife" are based upon the characters invented by the great Arthur Conan Doyle and Herman Melville. There is nothing creative or innovative about her tedious novel about Marie-Antoinette. The narrative drags and I am constantly having the feeling of having read it all before in a better written novel or biography, which is probably true. At least, however, in "Abundance" the queen is shown as having a loving relationship with the king and sleeping with no one but him. She is portrayed as sweet and chaste and virtuous, and grows increasingly more devout. I am so relieved. But Gabrielle (Yolande) is depicted as a heartless, greedy hussy.

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Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:26 pm
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Pimprenelle wrote:
Alas... The public enjoy tragical love stories and bad genius... We are just back into Walt Dysney's "Snow White" ! :lol: Ready to play the seven dwarfs, guys ? :lol:


Indeed, Pim, in Naslund's novel, Lamballe is the "good" friend and Gabrielle is the "bad" friend.

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Last edited by Therese on Thu Oct 12, 2006 8:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:27 pm
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Of course, dear Therese... Isn't Princess de Lamballe as blond as the break of dawn ? And Madame de Polignac as black as a wicked sorcery ?

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Mon Oct 02, 2006 6:57 pm
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And it's much easier to criticize Polignac because contrary in Lamballe, she was in the center of the attention of people, and therefore victim of more lies, whereas Lamballe was behind. :wink:

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Mon Oct 02, 2006 7:06 pm
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Pimprenelle wrote:
Of course, dear Therese... Isn't Princess de Lamballe as blond as the break of dawn ? And Madame de Polignac as black as a wicked sorcery ?


LOL!! And Naslund's book is FULL of allusions to fairies!!

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Mon Oct 02, 2006 7:22 pm
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