Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Lacemaker and the Princess

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This story follows the unlikely friendship of a poor lacemaker (Isabelle) and Princess Therese, daughter of Queen Marie Antoinette. As the girls play and enjoy the luxuries of palace life, rumors of revolution start trickling in. Even Isabelle's older brother George believes that revolution may be what's best for the country. Will this friendship survive a revolution?

I am not really sure how to explain my feelings about this book. I think I liked the concept more than the execution. Therese and Isabelle's friendship never felt natural. It always felt very forced, mostly because of Therese's attitude towards anyone below her. I realize that she was raised royalty at a time that was guided by the Divine Rule of Kings, but it got kind of annoying. Plus, I always wondered if she actually cared for Isabelle or just enjoyed not being alone. I did believe that Isabelle cared for the princess overall, though she definitely had her moments of displeasure.

However, I did think that this book did an excellent job of softening both sides of the French Revolution. The King was portrayed as a very weak leader, but a loving man that cared for his children. I thought the scene where the King weeps after the death of his son was rather touching. I actually really liked the Marie Antoinette of this story. She seemed like a loving woman, who actually did care for the people of France. She came off as a rather cold mother, though some of that may have been more distraction due to having a very ill child than actual coldness. The Marie Antoinette of my 10th grade history class (the only time I learned about her) was much more evil character who didn't care for anyone but herself.

The story of the friendship itself is fiction. However, according to the author, the Queen was known to take compassion on children and that a peasant the Queen called Ernestine really did play with the princess. I don't know how many of the facts surrounding the revolution, etc were true, but with my very limited knowledge, they seemed believable. And, the book caught my interest enough that I am interested in doing some more research into the French Revolution, which I always think is a bonus.

Overall, I liked the story. It was a really quick read that fans of historical fiction will probably enjoy.

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