Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: The Academie, by Susanne Dunlap (2012, Bloomsbury)

Recommended for ages 14+

Eliza Monroe, the daughter of future President James Monroe, is sent to finishing school in Paris by her mother. There, she meets Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Josephine Bonaparte – Napoleon’s stepdaughter, and Caroline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s youngest sister. The two young women dislike one another; Napoleon’s family feels he married beneath him when he married Josephine. Eliza falls in with both girls but ends up caught in the middle.
Told against the backdrop of Napoleon’s rise to power in France,The Academie is told from the points of view of Eliza, Caroline, Hortense, and a young woman, Madeleine, whose life intersects with the girls when she falls in love with Hortense’s brother Eugene, one of Napoleon’s officers.
The story, written in first person from four different points of view, is a piece of historical fiction based on some historical accuracy. Eliza Monroe did attend finishing school in Paris at the same time as Hortense de Beauharnais and Caroline Bonaparte. Reading like Mean Girls set in post-revolutionary France, there is not a lot of plot to work with, and the characters are not terribly well-developed. The book seems to concentrate on the romantic relationships that all four young women are trying to cultivate, with the story of Napoleon’s rise thrown in just enough to provide historical background to the story.
Susanne Dunlap writes historical YA fiction. Her website offers information about her other books, author information and availability for school visits, and a link to her blog.

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