Antoinette’s Sister: A Novel of the Unknown Sister of Marie Antoinette

Grand Central. Jan. 2022. 400p. ISBN 9781538720127. $28. F
As the Empress of the Holy Roman Empire in the 18th century, Maria Theresa, a Habsburg of Austria, wields her children as political pawns to increase her power in Europe. In order to ally with Spain, she arranges for her daughter Maria Carolina, called Charlotte, to marry Ferdinand of Naples. After becoming Queen of Naples and Sicily at 15, Charlotte finds her new husband ill-equipped to be king. Charlotte, however, has been raised to rule, and she eventually gets her chance when she takes her seat on the governing council after giving birth to a male heir. She forges a relationship with Ferdinand and works to institute reforms and bring culture to Naples, despite resistance from some of the nobility. Meanwhile, her more famous sister, Marie Antoinette, suffers in France, and revolution is spreading across Europe. Charlotte desperately tries to rescue her sister and to ally Naples with England and Austria against France, but ultimately fails.
VERDICT With a narrative focused on Charlotte and interspersed with letters from her siblings and mother, Giovinazzo’s (The Woman in Red) captivating novel highlights the rise and fall of a strong female monarch against the backdrop of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.
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