I didn't know a lot about Marie Antoinette before reading this book. I knew she was the queen of France during the French Revolution, and I knew that when she was told her people were starving, she supposedly said, "If they have no bread, then let them eat cake." It turns out that Marie Antoinette never said that - it was said a hundred years earlier by the wife of Louis XIV rather than Louis XVI.
Marie Antoinette was the fifteenth child of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and she was fourteen years old when she was sent to France to marry fifteen year old Louis Auguste, who became Louis XVI four years later (in 1774). It was interesting to read about the extravagant lifestyle of the royalty (financed primarily by taxes on the poor); it was easy to see why the people were starving. But over time, as Marie Antoinette matured, she became much more sensitive to the plight of her people and actually tried to economize. This was a sympathetic portrait of the woman behind the legend, and I enjoyed it very much. It was my 3rd book for the 2nds Reading Challenge 2011 (the first book by this author that I read was Ahab's Wife; my review of it is here) and my 6th book for the Off the Shelf Reading Challenge 2011. I rate this book 4 out of 5.