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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent

Genre: Historical Fiction

Copyright: 2009

Pages: 384

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Book Blurb:

On the brink of revolution, with a tide of hate turned against the decadent royal court, France is in turmoil - as is the life of one young woman forced to leave her beloved Paris. After a fire destroys her home and family, Claudette Laurent is struggling to survive in London.

But one precious gift remains: her talent for creating exquisite dolls that Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France herself, cherishes. When the Queen requests a meeting, Claudette seizes the opportunity to promote her business, and to return home...Amid the violence and unrest, Claudette befriends the Queen, who bears no resemblance to the figurehead rapidly becoming the scapegoat of the Revolution. But when Claudette herself is lured into a web of deadly political intrigue, it becomes clear that friendship with France's most despised woman has grim consequences.

Now, overshadowed by the spectre of Madame Guillotine, the Queen's dollmaker will face the ultimate test.

Review: Sounds great, doesn't it? I bought this book 60 seconds after reading the blurb and admiring the gorgeous front cover. I mean, the cover model almost looks like a little French doll herself in that gorgeous blue gown and the blurb promised me a plot that was as unfamiliar to me as the Tudor court once had been. And it was highly fascinating - many reviewers have praised the author's attention to detail and they're right too...for me it just lacked that something extra, that X-factor that makes you burn through the pages and leaves you breathless.

I found the subject matter - dollmaking in the French Revolution - to be particularly fascinating and I certainly feel intellectually enriched by reading this book. The author is careful to weave the story of Marie Antoinette into Claudette's life so that the reader has a frequent update on the unfolding of the revolutionary events. It was good going and relatively easy to read however the suspense and plot didn't reach fever-pitch to well close to the ending.

For me the main character, Claudette, was a little too perfect and a little too successful. Yes, some bad things happened to her but it really seemed that she didn't suffer any setbacks in her progression in the dollmaking trade and handled every obstacle with an expert intelligence beyond her years. While I like my heroinnes to be determined, it's the flaws that shatter their perfect facade which endear them to me. I know this opinion will be unpopular but I personally didn't feel there was enough authenticity to warrant a deep connection with Claudette.

I also found some of the behaviours of the minor characters to be incongruent. At times I was left wondering about the sudden changes in behaviour patterns and wondering where any indication of the violent streak that caused so much harm had been in earlier interactions the reader observes between them.

Regardless of my struggle to connect with the cast, I thoroughly praise this book for its historical accuracy and attention to detail. Refer to the back part of the novel and you will be greeted by an Author's Note full of intersting tidbits that verify the authenticity of her work (although the main character was not real).

I have read many reviews that loved this novel but for me, although it was enjoyable it wasn't amoung the best I've ever read. I would certainly read another book written by Christine Trent however I feel it was more the historical events themselves than the novel that made an impression on me in this instance.

Princess of the Past


Blodeuedd said...

Hm, I think I know what you mean. Sounds like a good book, with its flaws

ibeeeg said...

This does sound like a good premise for a historical fiction read. I will put it on my tbr list as I would like to read a bit about this time in French history. However, I do tend to be a character driven reader so your thoughts about lack of connection will be kept in mind.

Muse in the Fog said...

Great review! I just won and revived this book, I am really looking forward to it. Glad to know it was a good book.

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Thanks for your honesty, not sure that I'll bother with this one!

Teddyree said...

Excellent review Annie, this sounds like one I would have jumped at from the synopsis too but I think it might go on the backburner now. Love the cover!

Daphne said...

I enjoyed this one - especially the details about the dollmaking. Her next book is about Madame Tussand - should be interesting.

dorolerium said...

I'm kind of sad you didn't like this one more, because I received it and have to read it, and I was obviously hoping it would be fabulous ;) I'll have to make sure I don't get my hopes up too much when I do read it, lol.