Review: The Lacemaker and the Princess by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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Title: The Lacemaker and the Princess

Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Published: 2007

Age Rating: 11+

Star rating: 4/5

Set in France in 1778 (Just Before the French Revolution), this intriguing and intelligible tale features eleven-year old Isabelle who is a lacemaker in the town of Versailles. It is written in first person, in the point of view of young Isabelle. She narrates a tale of loneliness and hard work. She tells the reader of the long hours she works, making lace alongside her austere ‘Grand-Mére’ and poorly ‘Maman’ (mother). And then one day everything changes. Perhaps forever.

When the Princess of Lambelle’s lace was ready, Grand-Mére decided that I should deliver it. Not because I was responsible – I was not, as she often reminded me. Not that she trusted me – she did not, as I knew well.  It was because I was worthless, because Grand-Mére had been more than usually unhappy about the lace I’d made the previous day…

The seemingly everlasting, intense days of hard work making lace, make Isabelle’s life seem very dull, and on her trip, delivering this lace to the Palace, she is thrilled to encounter Royalty. Whilst delivering the lace, by chance Isabelle finds herself talking to Queen Marie Antoinette – and appointed official companion of the Queen’sdaughter: Thérèse. Thérèse is an interesting girl. At first, I expected her to be quite stuck-up and rude when she “looked at Isabelle without smiling” upon introduction. But Thérèse is lively and imaginative. Her other companion was a girl called Ernestine, who joins the girls, further on in the book. It was her absence that enabled Isabelle to acquaint the Queen’s daughter, however, and both girls are fascinated by each other and their backgrounds. Isabelle is envious and awed by Thérèse’s life, and education – and Thérèse is curious about Isabelle’s household and daily routine.

Throughout the story, the French Revolution looms into the lives of everyone in the town of Versailles. The author cleverly weaves the views of Isabelle’s family and the reaction at the palace by describing Isabelle being torn between each of their beliefs. The quote on the front cover sums the remaining chapters, nicely: “Can their friendship survive a revolution?” The description of the French Revolution and the reaction to it, is in depth in this fantastic, educational book. I love how the author packs so much knowledge into the text, but also – such a great story and plot. The characters are fantastic: they capture this point in history, amazingly accuarately and make this event fascinating.

It is a great story for teenagers, etc, but I’d also recommend it to any adults seeking knowledge about the French Revolution, etc. I found it a truly fascinating and enchanting read. It reminded me a little of Eva Ibbotson’s books: an intriguing story, encountering a historical highlight.

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