Have you ever dreamed of being a princess? How about being a princess in France? What about being the daughter of Marie Antoinette, one of “Children of France”? It seems like a pretty good life, especially if your life is not exactly one of wealth and leisure.
Isabelle doesn’t know much about the queen or wealth or leisure. Isabelle is a lacemaker. You might think that that too, sounds like a pretty good job, especially if you knew that she lived in the town of Versailles, France location of one of the world’s largest palaces and home to the kings of France. You’d be wrong.
Making lace was mentally and physically exhausting. It was painstaking, tedious work that allowed for no mistakes. The women in Isabelle’s family had been making lace for petty aristocrats for generations. Isabelle hates making lace. However, her father is dead, her brother works and lives at the palace stables, her grandmother is old and her mother crippled in her hands and joints so someone has to earn enough money to keep the family fed and with a roof over their heads.
Then one remarkable day, Isabelle’s life is turned upside down. Out of the blue, there is a summons to deliver lace to the palace. Her brother takes her as far as he is allowed to go. Once, inside, lost and bewildered by the chaos that is everyday life at the palace, Isabelle suddenly finds herself pushed to the floor looking up at—The Queen. And so begins her odd association with the family of Louis XVI, in particular with the princess, Therese, as her companion and royal playmate.
As her life at the palace becomes more extravagant, without her help, life in her village home begins to rapidly deteriorate. It is this duality that eventually causes Isabelle to question how some of the French people can be cold and starving, while others live only to celebrate the artificial abundance that surrounds them. Isabelle is torn between discontent and loyalty, revelry and revolution.
To her credit, the author does not create a neat conclusion. The French Revolution wasn’t pretty and though Isabelle lives to tell her story, there is no Cinderella ending here. That is not to say though, that the story is tragic and depressing. This particular era is not the topic of many children’s historical novels. Readers who enjoy history told from a personal viewpoint will enjoy meeting Isabelle and sharing her experiences as a “pet” of Madame Royale, Marie Antoinette.
Posted by: Eileen