The Lacemaker and The Princess by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
One day eleven year old Isabelle, a lacemaker near the palace in Versailles, makes a special delivery to the palace that changes her life and her view of the world, forever. Being the companion of the French Princess is a easy task, though braving the revolution-hungry streets is a challenge. While the french march on the palace Isabelle learns what it means to be truly poor, to be truly rich and how to live in a starving world.
I was so very, very skeptical of this book, the premise, I thought, could become cliché, which, if you’ve been reading at all, you should know I hate more than anything! I thought the historical bits could become typical, surface level, or the author would try and over populate the slim book with every unnecessary description known to man about the Palace. I was worried most of all about surviving two hundred pages listening to the thoughts and opinions of an eleven year old. Mrs. Bradley, oh, tou che!
The freshest most carefully balanced historical fiction read on my Mod Podge Bookshelf in a long ol’ time! I was intrigued by the choice of a peasant being a princesses companion, and found it wonderful how much of a princess Isabelle became herself, while still questioning the things around her. I loved that she remained true and faithful to the royal family she knew and loved, even as she witnessed the country rise against them, and I love how Isabelle studied the princess, showing the readers little Therese’s life, a life of beauty, and in her own respects, of a great poverty. The relationship between the girls was authentic and felt very sisterly, but pointed, you were aware that there was a certain amount of “job” within the friendship, but it wasn’t glaringly obvious. George, Isabelle’s brother was a wonderful portrayal of a young man who was scholarly, though uneducated, willing to fight and die for a country better equipped to serve the hungry.
The biggest challenge that was presented to this author was that of the King and Queen, what to do with the pair who can no longer account for their actions? Well, she sort of left it up to the reader; you got the impression that both were very blinded by their surroundings, completely oblivious to most things, not necessarily unwilling to face the truth, but instead that they weren’t very interested in being in their positions and wanted nothing better than to obtain normality. Does that make them just, fair, or right? Well, that’s up to you. Bradley did not have her Queen utter the infamous words, “let them eat cake,” however, neither was Marie out feeding the poor herself.
Thoughts on the cover: Gorgeous cover! I love it! The use of the lace, as the border and on the princesses dress, is such a well considered detail.
Thoughts on the names: I found it so funny, being a name nerd myself, that Marie wanted “fashionable names” for the girls. Ernestine (who really was the child companion of Therese) means “ernest friend” which was a very astute choice of Marie Antoinette’s! Clochette, the name chosen for Isabelle by Bradley, means “little Bell” which is lovely since George called her “my Belle” or my beauty.
Other notes: Best read while listening to “Les Mes!”