The Lacemaker and the Princess by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

(Cover picture courtesy of Reading Treasure.)

Isabelle is a lacemaker in the town of Versailles.  As she is delivering lace to the palace one day, she is almost trampled by a crowd of courtiers—only to be rescued by Marie Antoinette, the queen.   Suddenly Isabelle is transformed from commoner to companion of the queen’s daughter, complete with a new name, wardrobe, and lavish lifestyle.

Isabelle is living a fairy-tale life, but soon she hears whispers of starvation and revolution.  Can the terrible rumors about the royal family be true?  And which side is Isabelle on?

Inspired by actual events, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s novel is a vivid picture of life behind the gilded walls of Versailles—and a wonderful story of friendship that blossomed during the chaos of the French Revolution.

For young readers, The Lacemaker and the Princess is the perfect introduction to the French Revolution.  It presents the events in a way that makes them easy to understand but without insulting the reader’s intelligence, which can be one of the pitfalls of historical fiction for young readers.  The unlikely ‘friendship’ (I’m using the term loosely here) between Isabelle and the princess Thérèse is one readers will fall in love with.

Isabelle is a wonderful character that many young readers will sympathize with, but Thérèse is your typical spoiled royal.  She uses her power to order Isabelle around, even changing her name to the more fashionable Clochette, and stops at nothing to get her way.  I suppose Thérèse is friends with Isabelle in her own out-of-touch-princess sort of way, but this is definitely neither an ideal or particularly healthy friendship.  Isabelle is sort of friends with the princess, but she always has to watch her step around Thérèse to avoid losing her patronage.

Since I know next to nothing about the French Revolution, I cannot critique the accuracy of the novel as I could in novels about ancient Rome or Egypt.  It feels accurate to me even though Isabelle is a made up character, and a quick Google search tells me that the general historical events are accurate.  As for the details, your guess is as good as mine.  However, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has included an author’s note that explains the historical context very well and it sounds like The Lacemaker and the Princess was made to be accurate.

I give this book 3.5/5 stars.

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  1. Grace

    This looks like a great book! I like the framing device of using a made-up character to get close to real historical events; it gives a sense of perspective that would be hard to get if you told the story entirely from the princess’ point of view.

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