This book came out a couple of years ago, but it didn’t cross my path until recently when I was browsing through Amazon. It’s not a fantasy, but a story of differing cultures in France before the Revolution.
When eleven-year-old Isabelle Bonnard, a lacemaker like her mother and grandmother, delivers lace to the palace at Versailles, she has a chance encounter with Marie Antoinette. The queen invites her to spend the day with her daughter Marie-Therese, whose regular playmate is unavailable. Isabelle, of course, agrees, and enters a world of privilege and wealth where she is given a more fashionable name and new clothes so she can dress identically to the princess.
As she becomes one of the princess’s companions, Isabelle discovers that Therese is just as lonely as she is, but there are great differences as well. Isabelle is uneducated and has much to learn about court life. Therese does not understand that some children have to work and earn money and she refuses to consider Isabelle in that light.
Yet, the girls develop a friendship and Isabelle grows so used to the privileged life that her older brother, a palace stable hand, worries that she’s lost touch with the real world. He takes her with him when he delivers a carriage to Paris, and on the walk home (12 miles!) he shows her the poverty of the people across the countryside. Isabelle is changed by the experience and begins to understand the country’s unrest with the royal family she so admires.
Brubaker Bradley does a wonderful job building the tension as the story progresses. A mob of people march on Versailles and the royal family is taken away to Paris. Before reading this, I knew that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were eventually executed, but had not known what happened to their children. The Lacemaker and the Princess is full of the details that make historical fiction fascinating. I definitely recommend it.