Conformity is simply not in her blood...
TITLE: Finding Emilie
AUTHOR: Laurel Corona
INFO: Paperback, Fiction, 419 pages
PUBLISHED: Gallery, 2011
SOURCE: Received from Publisher for Review
FROM GOODREADS: Woman is born free, and everywhere she is in corsets. . . .
Lili du Châtelet yearns to know more about her mother, the brilliant French mathematician Emilie. But the shrouded details of Emilie’s unconventional life—and her sudden death—are elusive. Caught between the confines of a convent upbringing and the intrigues of the Versailles court, Lili blossoms under the care of a Parisian salonnière as she absorbs the excitement of the Enlightenment, even as the scandalous shadow of her mother’s past haunts her and puts her on her own path of self-discovery.
Laurel Corona’s breathtaking new novel, set on the eve of the French Revolution, vividly illuminates the tensions of the times, and the dangerous dance between the need to conform and the desire to chart one’s own destiny and journey of the heart.
MY TAKE: This was a very interesting book. I haven't read all that much about the French Revolution and the years leading up to it. Seeing it through the eyes of both a mature woman of science as well as a young, passionate girl was a brilliant storytelling technique.
The main character Lili is a very likable girl. I enjoyed reading of her journey from a young girl into a young woman and then finally, a mother herself. Her best friend Delphine was a bit trying at times, but the love between her and Lili was the type that stands the test of time. Their relationship ended up being very similar to that of their mothers, Julie and Emilie. It was also very helpful learning about Emilie and the influences upon her life and choices.
Lili's love of science and learning is a direct inheritance from her mother Emilie. Emilie was a brilliant woman who was forced to watch as men took credit for her scientific finds and discoveries. She dies shortly after giving birth to Lili, leaving Lili to be brought up by Julie de Bercy. Julie's daughter Delphine and Lili are brought up as sisters. Julie was also a woman who craved learning and freedom. She encouraged Lili's quest for knowledge and the right to make her own choices.
Laurel Corona's extensive research is very apparent throughout the book. She offers very detailed descriptions of clothing, scenery and everyday customs and duties. I really liked a particular scene where the girls are practicing walking and sitting while wearing panniers. I could feel their discomfort and irritation as they were forced to spend hours repeating the proper steps to ensure they wouldn't knock things over and that the train of their dress would be centered as they turned around. They were preparing to meet the French Queen and everything had to be absolutely perfect. The presentation to the Queen was one of my favorites.
The perfectly blended tale of history and fiction make for an enjoyable read. While Emilie du Chatelet was an actual woman, Lili was a fictional version of her youngest daughter if she'd lived. The author told Emilie's story using flashbacks and then alternating them with Lili's present adventures. Fans of history, romance and intrigue will do well to read this book. There is a very helpful Gallery reader's group guide at the back of the book that offers some great discussion questions.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon and The Book Depository
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