Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days: Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie
Author: Will Bashor
392 Pages in Kindle
Projected Date of Publication: December 1, 2016
Dates Read: September 8-20, 2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
Book Summary from Amazon:
This compelling book begins on the 2nd of August 1793, the day Marie Antoinette was torn from her family’s arms and escorted from the Temple to the Conciergerie, a thick-walled fortress turned prison. It was also known as the “waiting room for the guillotine” because prisoners only spent a day or two here before their conviction and subsequent execution. The ex-queen surely knew her days were numbered, but she could never have known that two and a half months would pass before she would finally stand trial and be convicted of the most ungodly charges.
Will Bashor traces the final days of the prisoner registered only as Widow Capet, No. 280, a time that was a cruel mixture of grandeur, humiliation, and terror. Marie Antoinette’s reign amidst the splendors of the court of Versailles is a familiar story, but her final imprisonment in a fetid, dank dungeon is a little-known coda to a once-charmed life. Her seventy-six days in this terrifying prison can only be described as the darkest and most horrific of the fallen queen’s life, vividly recaptured in this richly researched history.
I will admit I do not know much at all about Marie Antoinette. I read a fiction book with an alternate history about her that piqued my curiosity in regard to her life(Insatiable: A Macabre History of France by Ginger Myrick). Darkest Days does not deal with her whole life, it focuses on the last few months of her life, specifically her 76 days in the Conciergerie.
Will Bashor obviously did his homework! He researched this topic very well and was able to provide specific details of Marie Antoinette’s “life” in the Conciergerie. It wasn’t much of a life. Her husband was executed, her children taken away from her, and subpar living quarters with no privacy. Her health went downhill during her time in the Conciergerie. Regardless of your opinion of Marie Antoinette, her last days her horrible. As she left the Conciergerie for the guillotine, she was mistreated even then. It was a horrible way to end a life. I felt sorry and sad for her. You also learn about plans to rescue her that failed.
Will Bashor writes the book in form of a novel which made it easy to read. Some historical books can be dry and flat, but at times this book was hard to put down. I also enjoyed seeing the pictures and maps provided in the book: that made some things in the book seem more real as the book was being read.
Reasons the book could not be given 5 stars:
The book doesn’t seem meant to be read in e-reader form:
-It was hard to read on a kindle as I wasn’t easily able to go back and forth to look at the map then read the description of places in the map.
-Footnotes in the book were in the middle of paragraphs which broke the flow of reading.
-There were several paragraphs where the paragraph was one sentence. The sentences were not necessarily run on sentences, but those long sentences make it hard to read the book. I had to read some paragraphs multiple times because of this.
(Please note: My copy was an electronic ARC- so maybe these will be corrected by the publication date).
If you are a fan of French history or even Marie Antoinette, check this book out. Despite the issues mentioned above, I do recommend the book.
**I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.