January 3, 2010

The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent

Half the fiction I read is historical fiction, although I have not yet read much on the French Revolution. For the past year I have promised myself to investigate more into the history of Marie Antoinette, purchasing the 2008 movie Marie Antoinette directed by Sofia Coppola, which I had not yet watched, as well as Antonia Fraser’s MTI version of Marie Antoinette: The Journey, which I have not yet read. Then I was given an opportunity to read The Queen’s Dollmaker (released in trade paperback by Kensington, December 29, 2009, 384p) on offer from the author Christine Trent and I am so glad I accepted.

The Queen’s Dollmaker is a very clever and fresh perspective of the French Revolution period set in both England and France.

On the brink of revolution, with a tide of hate turned against the decadent royal court, France is in turmoil—as is the life of one young woman forced to leave her beloved Paris. After a fire destroys her house and family, Claudette Laurent is struggling to survive in London. But one precious gift remains: her talent for creating exquisite dolls that Marie Antoinette, The Queen of France herself, cherishes. When the Queen requests a meeting, Claudette seizes the opportunity to promote her business, and to return home…

Infused with the passion and excitement of a country—and an unforgettable heroine—on the threshold of radical change, this captivating novel propels readers into a beguiling world of opulence, adventure and danger, from the rough streets of eighteenth-century London to France’s lavish palace of Versailles.

The story follows in a series of vignettes of Claudette’s life coinciding with the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Through her strong determination and ingenuity she crafts her future as a premier dollmaker in England, eventually catching the attention of Marie Antoinette. Their destinies become entwined as events unfold.

Marie Antoinette is from the outset a sympathetic character that the young Claudette is fascinated by, but she is presented in a realistic and factual way, with Trent not choosing sides one way or another whether she deserved her fate or not. Historical details are revealed through the events that happen. The story at times quickly progresses over the years and so I would not have minded if the book had been a bit longer.

I appreciated the amount of detail about the craft and selling of dolls. I’m a reader who enjoys all the technical details, so the story appealed to me in this way too. The Queen’s Dollmaker is a very good novel that stays true to its voice. After an accomplished debut effort I am excited to read Christine Trent's next novel, The Wax Apprentice, to be released in 2011. Other recommended historical fiction reads with strong-willed, entrepreneurial female protagonists include The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory, The Tailor’s Daughter by Janice Graham, The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson and Signora Da Vinci by Robin Maxwell.

My Rating: 4.5


The Queen’s Dollmaker certainly got me more interested in the life of Marie Antoinette. I also watched Marie Antoinette directed by Sofia Coppola in the middle of reading the novel. The movie is stunningly visual with more focus on Marie's earlier years as the Dauphine of France. While I did not know much about the life of Marie Antoinette previously, now I have a much better understanding of this period in history. Eventually I hope to read Antonia Fraser’s Marie Antoinette: The Journey.

Related Posts:

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson
Signora Da Vinci by Robin Maxwell


  1. I have this book on my TBR list. I have seen such good things about it.

  2. Marg, it's very good! I really enjoyed it. Nice to read historical fiction that doesn't take wild deviations from the facts and features a strong female heroine.

  3. I have heard so many good things about this book...I will have to read it!


  4. Definitely interested in this one -- it's set in a different time period from what I usually read, and I'm fascinated by Marie Antoinette! Trent is a local author from Maryland, too, and that's piqued my interest. Great review!

  5. Meg, this novel is well worth the read. The fresh perspective made the story very intersting and effective. Enjoy!