Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Lacemaker and the Princess by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Lacemaker and the Princess

The Lacemaker and the Princess
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Hardback: 199 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
First Released: 2007

Author Website

Source: Bought from Amazon

Back Cover Blurb:
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.

This novel is a historical set France starting in 1788. Details of the time period are skillfully woven into the story, and the problems Isabelle faces comes from the problems of the period. I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historicals and is interested in the period.

The pacing is very good, and the characters were engaging and interesting. There was no romance (so no sex or kissing), and I don't recall any cussing. Overall, I'd recommend this as "a good, clean fun" novel.

Excerpt: Chapter One
When the Princess of Lamballe's lace was ready, Grand-mère 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, because Grand-mère had been more than usually unhappy about the lace I'd made the previous day, and because one of the very minor nobles had ordered ten yards of lace--a vast amount--that was to be picked up today, and it wasn't finished. "Stop for George. He'll point you to Her Majesty's rooms," Grand-mère said, stuffing me roughly into my one real dress. "He'll see you don't dawdle, or lose the lace."

George was my older brother. He worked in the stables at the palace of Versailles, caring for the Marquis de Lafayette's carriage horses. Our father had also been a servant of the Marquis. Papa was dead; I never knew him.

"Heaven forbid, lose the lace," murmured Maman, sitting up in her bed in the corner of the room, and crossing herself. Grand-mère was large and fat and mean; Maman was small and crippled and sad. "Take care, Isabelle, will you?" She glanced at Grand-mère. "Perhaps--"

"I don't have a moment to spare, not one moment, not with us so behind," Grand-mère said. She looked at Maman. She did not say it was Maman's fault we were behind with our lacemaking, but she thought it, and Maman and I both knew she was thinking it. Some days Maman's knees and hands hurt so bad that she had to drink laudanum before she could sleep. The medicine made her groggy all the next day, and it made her hands shake, too, which was not good in a lacemaker.

Grand-mère thought that Maman only pretended to be in pain, despite the evidence of her swollen fingers and knees. Grand-mère never believed in any pain she didn't feel herself.

Grand-mère was an evil old goat. She made our house a misery.

Now she poked me with Maman's cane. "Don't you think for a moment that you're off the hook. If it weren't for your shoddy work yesterday, we wouldn't be in such a rush."

This was a lie. The lace I'd ruined yesterday--and I had made a mess of it, the pattern was complicated and I'd gotten confused--was not the lace that was supposed to be ready today. I wasn't trusted to make important lace. But I knew better than to contradict Grand-mère.

"It won't take her long," Maman said. "You, Isabelle, remember you have work waiting when you get home."

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