At the age of fourteen, Princess Maria Antonia of Austria was sent to France to be married to the fifteen-year-old Dauphin (crown prince) Louis Auguste, thus forging an alliance between their countries and re-christening her as the French Dauphine, Marie Antoinette. Such alliances are cemented by producing heirs, but it takes several years and ascension to the throne before this marriage is consummated successfully, and a second pregnancy before a prince is born. The queen-to-be diverts herself with court life and gambling in the years prior to motherhood, less interested than her husband in reading or learning about the people they rule. When years of poor crops, poverty, and anger at the extravagances of the royal court finally provoke the French people to revolt, the queen never quite believes that their love for the monarchy, who have been chosen by God to rule over them (the "divine right of kings"), could have been so diminished, even as her family and friends are driven into exile, imprisoned, and put to death.
Marie Antoinette's public image has been undergoing some favorable revision in the last few years; for one thing, historians have absolved her of that "let them eat cake" quote. This historical novel, narrated in "Toinette's" voice, begins with her journey from Austria to meet her husband and goes to, literally, the end, as the guillotine drops toward her neck. She comes across as fairly likable, sweet, sheltered, and rather clueless, genuinely having little understanding of life outside the court. Her attitude toward the French people seems more oblivious and unaware than venal or malicious, although the agitators among the revolutionaries paint her, and the rest of the aristocracy, as evil. Not many of the supporting characters are very well developed, but that actually seems in character for a first-person narrative about someone who really is the center of her world. The writing itself is a bit pedestrian, and the story drags in spots, but that's probably appropriate in describing lives that are very privileged and to some degree aimless. And as with most fiction built around historical figures, you already know how it has to end.