Saturday, April 3, 2010

Review: The Queen's Dollmaker

The Queen's Dollmaker
By Christine Trent
Publication date: January 1, 2010
My rating:****1/2

My review:

Claudette Laurent, daughter of a skilled dollmaker, flees Paris after the tragic loss of her parents. She cannot find her betrothed, Jean-Philippe, so she accepts passage on a ship for London where she obtains work as a servant. Slowly things begin to look up for Claudette as she finds a way to make and sell dolls, eventually setting up a successful shop. She even has the attention of a handsome British aristocrat. Then Claudette's life changes once again when Marie Antoinette requests her dolls. Returning to Paris at the request of the French queen, Claudette is drawn into the political turmoil surrounding the French court and she finds her life in danger.

Claudette is an admirable character. She faces a lot of sorrow and hardship but she remains strong and holds on to hope. Her attitude also helps those around her like her newfound friend Beatrice, a young widow with a little girl. Together Claudette, Beatrice, and her daughter Marguerite become a family of sorts as they work as servants for a British family and later on as they make dolls. Claudette is the strong one who keeps them motivated and comes up with creative ideas that lead to the success of her dollmaking venture. Claudette has two love interests , one is her childhood love Jean-Phillipe and the other is the dashing William Greycliffe. Both are interesting characters and have important roles to play in her life. There are other interesting side characters such as Elizabeth Preston, an English heiress who befriends Claudette when she first journeys to London, the prentious Mrs. Ashby, and the vile servant Jassy Brickford.  The historical figures are some of the most fascinating characters that are presented, particularly Marie Antoinette and Count Axel Fersen. Other prominent real figures included are King Louis XVI and their children, Marie Grosholz (the future Madame Tussaud of waxwork fame), and the Princesse de Lamballe, a close friend of the French queen.

The historical details surrounding the life of Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution are really brought to life in the novel. I really felt that I learned a lot about the time period while I enjoyed the story. I also liked the details about dollmaking and fashion. Something that makes this novel unique is that we see events and life from the perspective of people of all walks of life from the nobility to the working classes of England and France. It is evident that Christine Trent did a lot of research when she wrote The Queen's Dollmaker and for me it really added to my enjoyment of a great story.

There are only a few small things that I did not like. One thing that I found distracting was the continued name change for Count Axel Fersen. Instead of Axel there are several times in the story that he is called Alex. Another thing that bugged me (and this is really really minor) is that the story begins in 1765 when Claudette is supposed to be 5 years old and then later on we see Claudette in London in 1781 where she is supposed to be a teenager but according to the early timeline she would actually be in her twenties. There were also times when the narrative read a little more like a popular biography of Marie Antoinette rather than fiction.  This just happened a couple of times mostly early in the novel (chapter 3) and it didn't bother me that much because I enjoy popular biographies like those by Antonia Fraser or Alison Weir, which are very readable. Once there was more interaction with the historical figures and dialogue was included between characters that was not an issue at all.

Overall, I think this is a fantastic historical fiction novel with a lot of interesting characters and a suspenseful story. I was so excited when I found out that there is a sequel, The Wax Apprentice, which will be released in late December 2010. If you like well written historical fiction or even historical romance, you should definitely consider The Queen's Dollmaker. To find out more and read an exerpt visit the website of author Christine Trent.



  1. Wow, this sounds like a great one. I love historical fiction, and am especially interested in Marie Antoinette because I did my history summative on her. Great review!

  2. Christina, I'm glad you enjoyed Claudette's adventures. And thank you for pointing out the discrepancy between Axel and Alex. I had no idea I'd done that! Also, the dating was an error that didn't get corrected -- the novel should have started in 1770. I moved the starting point for Claudette's story several times, and this error crept in.

    However, I'm delighted that these things did not bother you overall, and that you enjoyed the book. My editor will be changing the name of the sequel, so stay tuned for more info.


  3. This one does sound very interesting, in spite of the minor issues! I have to look this one up! Great review!!

  4. I've recently opened my eyes to historical fiction, thanks for the great recommendation :D

  5. Wow, this sounds great - I just added it to my wishlist! Thanks for the recommendation! :)

  6. What a wonderful review! I'm adding The Queen's Dollmaker to my wish list.


Reading Extensively is now an award free blog. Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment. I enjoy receiving feedback! Due to increase in spam, I've enabled comment moderation. Sorry for any inconvenience!