Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Book Review: The Queen's Dollmaker...The Giveaway Continues!

If you’re in a mood for detailed period history in both France and England (the 18th c), weaved into a tale of one woman’s survival, struggle for independence, love, suspense, and an ever- fascinating career..boy do I have a book for you!
Oh, and did I mention this one also contains the Revolution-and our favourite French Queen, Marie Antoinette?

Let alone that The Queen’s Dollmaker is such an interesting read, I just couldn’t get enough of the whole doll making experience.  Every bit of detail is so vividly portrayed that you almost feel part of the setting.  Christine Trent has a knack for sweeping you right into the moment. I had a hard time believing this was the author’s very first novel.

Our heroine, Claudette Laurent, was taught at a young age, the art of dollmaking, by the grand master of dollmaking himself, her father.  Tragically, when her whole family perishes through a horrendous fire, Claudette is left to fend for herself to make a new life in a new country.  On the ship from France to London, she befriends Beatrice, a young widow, and her baby daughter, Marguerite.  The three of them become like family and are inseparable throughout their journey and settling in England. Through highs and lows, which include famine, begging and menial servant work, Claudette rekindles her dream of creating dolls.

At first, this is just a means to their survival. But then, eventually she manages to break free from the misery to building an extraordinarily successful business.  Naturally, Claudette teaches both Beatrice, and Marguerite (who eventually grows up and is an invaluable help to her) the ins and outs of the dollmaking process and the three enjoy life as they finally deserve it.

So what about love?  Claudette is unable to forget her first love, Jean-Philippe, who once upon a time, was her promised betrothed.  However, someone else is constantly in her life, intriguing her with his ways;  the very dashing William Greycliffe. And how does Marie Antoinette fit in the picture?  Claudette actually meets the Queen and becomes her exclusive dollmaker.  She even builds a friendship with Madame Tussaud and also deals with Rose Bertin.  There are so many other historical figures entwined in this story that I had to keep reminding myself that I was reading fiction!

The novel takes us through the history, culminating in Marie Antoinette’s fatal encounter with the Guillotine.  I was amazed by how the author managed to merge important events, details, plot and storyline to produce such an exquisite story that kept me fascinated throughout.  I especially loved the way the book goes into the intricate dollmaking process (this was definitely my favourite part!), Marie Antoinette’s life, the Revolution, the love story- pulling everything together, all the while keeping me satisfied in learning about each and every development.

I found the way the author ran Marie Antoinette’s life in parallel with Claudette’s life extremely clever. This was particularly helpful to situate events and circumstances relating to how Claudette’s life developed in consequence.  I can also understand how, even though sad and difficult for me, Marie Antoinette was not portrayed in the best light.  The author clearly intended to show Marie Antoinette’s tragedy as a result of the ill views of those out to destroy her…vicious effect of the Revolution.  Fortunately, our heroine  is portrayed as loving the Queen and seeing the true good in her- this made her even more endearing to me.

Almost as if narrated by a storyteller, The Queen’s Dollmaker is an historically enchanting fairytale that captivates and satisfies, all the while making you wish that it were all true.

You will love this book!

It's also the Perfect choice for my French Historicals Oh-La –La Challenge!

BTW…If you haven’t entered the GIVEAWAY for this excellent novel, Please check that out here!


Svea Love said...

Excellent review Lucy! Loved the part when you spoke of how hard it was to read a more negative view of Marie Antoinette, but you still were able to find the positive in the situation through Claudette's actions.

I am so excited to read this book after receiving it the other day. So many wonderful things have been said about it. This will be my first read for your lovely French Oh la la challenge :)

May said...

This sounds like quite a touching story. Thank you for another sparkling review!

Lucy said...

Hi Muse:) Yes, I did have abit of hard time with the Marie Antoinette part..but seriously, it was realistic in the sense that MA was obviously seen that way by the revolutionaires. I loved Claudette. I think yo'll really enjoy it- especially the doll making parts. Thanks!

Hey Matterhorn! This was a splendid story, and I'm sad it was fiction after all. Thanks for your lovely comment:)

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I enjoyed reading this book, too. The dollmaking aspect was refreshing and the author did a great job of linking it to the intrigue with the Queen MA and the Revolution.
I've had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Trent and learning about her source of inspiration.

Unknown said...

Oh! This books sounds to be a great read. I can't wait to get my hands on it. I'm a professional art dollmaker myself so you can just imagine the thrill.

Thank you :)


Elisa said...

I enjoyed this novel too! I didn't know before reading this book that the Queen loved dolls.

Unknown said...

I really did enjoy how she paralleled the lives. I haven't read much about the French Revolution or Marie Antoinette (although I know a decent amount about both). It was very useful to keep track of what was going on in France at the same time while seeing what was happening in England too. Great review!

Arleigh said...

Great review, Lucy! I really liked this book as well :)

Tea said...

I have become of Royal blood. I now have THE QUEEN'S DOLLMAKER by CHRISTINE TRENT in my sidebar linking back to here from I really do feel like an aristocrat. "Oh deah, where is my coach?" (smile)

Allie ~ Hist-Fic Chick said...

I completely agree that Claudette's innate goodness allowed her to see the good in Marie Antoinette which propelled my vision of Claudette as a sympathetic character and endeared her to me even further. I also loved the dollmaking details and the way the author interwove the history of France side of events with the rest of Claudette's story.