Sunday, December 5, 2010

REVIEW: The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent

Claudette Laurent is living a comfortable life as the daughter of one of the most renowned doll makers in all of France. Tragedy strikes when both of her parents are killed during a great fire that sweeps through Paris. Alone and with no one to turn to Claudette sets sail for England where the promise of work awaits. On board she befriends Beatrice, her daughter Marguerite, and Heiress Elizabeth. Once in England Claudette and Beatrice find work as servants in the home of social climber Maude Ashby, a demanding woman who is less than kind to them. Loathed by the other servants, Claudette and Beatrice realize they must escape the misery of the Ashby household and begin to make small dolls to sell. When a jealous servant finally causes them to leave the Ashby’s, Claudette and Beatrice decide to focus on the doll business. Starting out in a small shop that doubles as their home, they build their doll business from the ground up and soon come to the notice of the English elite. When the dolls come to the notice of Marie Antoinette, Claudette is granted an audience with the Queen and soon receives commissions from the French court.

During her meeting with the Queen, Claudette is reunited with her first love Jean-Philippe and must decide if her future lies with him in France or back home with William Greycliffe, the English gentleman she has come to love. She decides to return to England but is soon summoned back at the request of the embattled Queen who is embroiled in the chaos of the Revolution. Claudette realizes that this summons is a trap and is soon caught up in the turmoil of the Revolution due to her relationship with the Queen. While once enjoying her success in England, Claudette is now fighting for her life in France.

It is hard not to admire a fighter like Claudette. She goes from being a member of a prosperous doll making family to utter poverty overnight. Using the one talent she has, the doll making she learned from her father, Claudette completely turns her life around. The blend of actual historical figures and the fictional ones in this book was seamless which made the story flow very well. I appreciated the inside look at the French Revolution, particularly the portrayal of Marie Antoinette-not as the villain the revolutionaries made her out to be, but as a rather clueless and compassionate woman who is caught up in her own world and realizes her follies far too late. There were a few twists in the book that I was not expecting either which helped to hold my attention.

The only thing that irked me a little was Claudette’s rapid flight from France. It seemed strange to me she doesn’t make much of an effort to try to build a life in France before making the choice to go to England. Understandably she has just lost her home but Jean-Philippe is supposed to be her intended and she doesn’t do much of a search for him or try to find work in France before hopping the boat to England. If I were in that situation I probably would not be so quick to leave behind my country and the person I loved so quickly. I also felt the romance with William Greycliffe could have gone a little more in depth. Other than those two minor areas of concern I really enjoyed this novel. It offered a unique perspective of the Revolution with a cast of interesting characters and the description of the doll making was fascinating. I’m looking forward to her next book A Royal Likeness, which comes out later this month.

This book is from my own personal library


  1. I thought this one sounded very interesting and what an unique premise.

  2. This sounds like a wonderful read; I love historical fiction where I learn a little more about the actual events and/or people involved. Thanks for the review!