The Académie by Susanne Dunlap

Book Cover of The Academie by Susanne DunlapTitle: The Académie
Author: Susanne Dunlap
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens Books
Publication Date: February 28, 2012
Hardcover: 358 pages

Where’d I Get It: for review from the publisher

Synopsis (From Goodreads): Eliza Monroe—daughter of the future president of the United States—is devastated when her mother decides to send her to boarding school outside of Paris. But the young American teen is quickly reconciled to the idea when—ooh, la-la!—she discovers who her fellow pupils will be: Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Josephine Bonaparte; and Caroline Bonaparte, youngest sister of the famous French general. It doesn’t take long for Eliza to figure out that the two French girls are mortal enemies—and that she’s about to get caught in the middle of their schemes. 

Loosely drawn from history, Eliza Monroe’s imagined coming of age provides a scintillating glimpse into the lives, loves, and hopes of three young women during one of the most volatile periods in French history.

My Thoughts: I have to begin this review by saying that I do not usually read Historical Fiction – whether it is Young Adult or Adult.  History was my least favorite subject in school and I have to admit, any time I see the word, I immediately think “snooze fest”. In the past, I’ve read novels in the Historical Fiction genre that made me feel bogged down in fact with far too many information dumps.  This novel, luckily, did not do that.

The Académie is a work of fiction based loosely on historic events. Keeping this in mind, I have to admire the clever way Susanne Dunlap was able to weave together a believable story with a lovely setting. The historical events portrayed were interesting enough, and written about in such a lovely way, that I did not mind at all that the pace was just a bit slow.  The pace does continue rather languidly until around the last third of the book, but again, the prose is nice so it doesn’t really grate on the nerves.

One major flaw I found with the book was, unfortunately, with the characters. Hortense, Caroline, Eliza, and Madeleine, could have been SO much more interesting! I think, perhaps, if just one of them had been left out, there might have been room enough in the novel to introduce us to deeper portions of the other three. None of them were especially likable, though I have to say that of the four, Madeleine was my favorite. Odd, that, considering she’s the only 100% fictional ‘main’ character.  Character growth was essentially non-existent, though Eliza did mature a bit.  The points of view switch from chapter to chapter through each of the girls, and it makes for a bit of a disjointed story. I prefer books that remain in one point of view mostly because that happens more often than not. It’s possible to make such things flow, but it just didn’t happen in this book.

I did actually enjoy the book, despite the above mentioned points. As I mentioned, the setting is lovely and the writing is good.  The plot is interesting and watching each girl go about getting what she wants was entertaining enough to make it worth the time I put into the book.  It’s a coming-of-age tale with a scattering of romance, a touch of sadness, and a hint of hope. Give it a shot!

Rating: 3 of 5

Comments

  1. I’m not a big fan of historical fiction myself. I don’t have a head for facts and have never really seen the point. However, I must say that I find this book’s blurb fascinating and, given that its’ part-fictional, I’d be willing to give it a try. Thanks for your review:)

    Sarah

    • Thanks for the comment, Sarah! 🙂 You should probably snag it – honestly, though it’s definitely a historical novel (in a fictional sense, of course), it’s a fun read.

  2. I haven’t read a lot of historical fiction either, but I think this one sounds good! Maybe I should read more of them. I like history if it’s not too boring 🙂

  3. I do like historical fiction. I’ve heard good things and bad things about this book but I think I’m still going to give it a try. Hopefully I’ll like it!