The Lacemaker and the Princess

The Lacemaker and the Princess

Book - 2007
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In 1788, eleven-year-old Isabelle, living with her lacemaker grandmother and mother near the palace of Versailles, becomes close friends with Marie Antoinette's daughter, Princess Therese, and finds their relationship complicated not only by their different social class but by the growing political unrest and resentment of the French people. Eleven-year-old Isabelle is a lacemaker in the town of Versailles. One day as she delivers lace to the palace, she is almost trampled by a crowd of courtiers -- only to be rescued by Marie Antoinette. Before Isabelle can believe it, she has a new job -- companion to the queen's daughter. Isabelle is given a fashionable name, fashionable dresses -- a new identity. At home she plies her needle under her grandmother's disapproving eye. At the palace she is playmate to a princess. Thrown into a world of luxury, Isabelle is living a fairy-tale life. But this facade begins to crumble when rumors of starvation in the countryside lead to whispers of revolution. How can Isabelle reconcile the ugly things she hears in the town with the kind family she knows in the palace? And which side is she truly on? Inspired by an actual friendship between the French princess and a commoner who became her companion, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley offers a vivid portrait of life inside the palace of Versailles -- and a touching tale of two friends divided by class and the hunger for equality and freedom that fueled the French Revolution.
Publisher: New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, c2007
ISBN: 9781428746732
Branch Call Number: BRA
Characteristics: 199 p. ; 22 cm


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Nov 03, 2012

I picked up The Lacemaker and the Princess and decided to read it after liking the opening: "When the Princess of Lamballe's lace was ready, Grand-mere decided that I should deliver it. Not because I was responsible--I was not, as she often reminded me. Not because she trusted me--she did not, as I well knew. It was because I was worthless..." I really enjoyed the book. Isabelle, an 11-yr-old lacemaker, catches the eye of Marie Antoinette after being pushed around and brushed off by a crowd eager to catch a glimpse of her, and the queen cleans her up, feeds her, and offers her as the day's playmate for her lonely 9-yr-old daughter, Therese. There's a historical basis to the story: Therese did have a "hired friend" whose parents were poor, Ernestine (not her real name, but what the queen and Therese insisted on calling her, because it was more fashionable). Ernestine's in the book, but is absent on the day Isabelle (who becomes "Clochette" when she's at Versailles, as it, too, is more fashionable) is introduced to Therese--and the three become the strange sort of friends one might become when two are poor and one is the daughter of a queen. The girls are treated like royalty (dressed in finery, feasted) while at the palace, and their loyalty is hugely important to Therese, who insists they not talk about their lives outside lest she be reminded that their "friendship" did not come about naturally. Over the course of the book, Isabelle's class consciousness grows--at first, she's dazzled by and in love with the wild extravagance that she now gets to partake of at times. But revolution is brewing, her groomsman brother George warns her, and it turns out that Isabelle is with the king and his family in the palace during the Women's March on Versailles. I enjoyed & think kids will enjoy the description of life in Versailles--the palace stench, the 40 servants whose only job is to replace guttering candles with fresh ones--and will add this book to my list of go-to historical fiction titles to recommend when kids come in with an assignment to read some.

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