Looking for an 18th century historical drama?
Pick up The Queen’s Dollmaker by Christine Trent. The novel is set both in France and England and tells the story of one woman’s survival and her struggle for independence, love and life. The heroine, Claudette Laurent, loses everything when a tragic fire sweeps through Paris killing her family and destroying her house and the family business. Penniless and alone Claudette decides to take her chances in England. On the ship from France to England, she befriends Béatrice and her young daughter Marguerite. The three of them become inseparable and they form their own little family and begin their journey together. They stick together through good times and bad, including tedious servant work, Claudette rekindles her talent and dreams of continuing her father’s business of doll making. At the beginning, this is just for survival . . . the girls need to make enough money to escape their lives as domestic servants but eventually these little dolls become coveted items and the demand begins to increase drastically. Claudette and Béatrice manage to break free from their misery and they begin a very successful and thriving business.
You would think that based on the title of the novel that the nobility would play a greater part in the novel, which is exactly what I thought when I picked it up, however this really isn’t the case. Claudette is commissioned by Marie-Antoinette to create a doll that looks like the Princesse and Claudette eventually becomes friends with Marie-Antoinette as well as the Princesse and Marie Grosholtz (the future Madame Tussard). Claudette’s friendship with the Queen proves to be dangerous as the revolution approaches and Claudette finds herself in a dangerous situation.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The novel started out a little slow and a little rocky but it changed dramatically once Claudette started her own business. The characters are described in great detail as well as the relationships between them. I love how the author portrayed a strong female character (Claudette) who was able to create and sustain a successful business, without the assistance of a man. I also appreciated how Claudette’s husband allows her to keep her shop and to continue working once they are married, something that was pretty much unheard of in those times. My one criticism of the story was the lack of passion between Claudette and William. I would have liked a little more passion between them especially after the dramatic events that occurred late in the novel. I also loved the amount of detail about the doll making trade. I also found the sympathetic portrayal of Marie-Antoinette refreshing after years of just the opposite. This novel stays true to its voice as well as to historical details. I cannot wait to read the sequel "A Royal Likeness", it’s currently sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read, as well as future works by Christine Trent.