Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: The Academie - Susanne Dunlap

The Academie by Susanne Dunlap
Genre: YA, historical fiction, romance
Published on February 28, 2012
Published by Bloomsbury
Pages: 368
Read From: 6.29.12 - 6.30.12

Madame Campan's Academie Nationale is one of the most celebrated schools in all of France, and her students are equally illustrious. Meet the impetuous Eliza Monroe - la belle Americaine - whose father will one day be named president of the United States. And Hortense de Beauharnais, Josephine Bonaparte's stunningly beautiful daughter, who has fallen for a man her family will never accept. Meanwhile, Caroline Bonaparte - yes, Napoleon's sister - will stop at nothing to capture the attention of a handsome young general, even if it means crossing her brother. And then there is Madeleine de Pourtant, daughter of a volatile actress in the Comedie Francaise, who harbors a secret that could tear apart the world of the dazzling young socialites. Before the term is out, one girl will find true love, one will be heartbroken, and a third girl's dreams will take a deadly turn.


Cover Blurb: While I love the color scheme - soft, blushing pink and emerald-green dress - and the title’s font, I don’t like the girl. Her position and emphasis on the lips screams GIRL READ! The cover doesn’t lie - this is a girl read, but it also isn’t as bad of one as the cover may indicate. If it was on a paperback, I would almost assume that it’s one of those cheap romances that little old ladies are always reading (except the girl does have her clothes on).

What I Liked: The setup - a posh boarding-school in Paris - was interesting. I love historical fiction boarding-school stories. The mix of different characters added a lot to the story. I did not, at first, much care for Eliza. She seemed pretty dense; why in the world would you trust someone like Caroline? She is so obviously a conniving little jerk. Her like for Hortense, but refusal to stand up for her, bothered me a lot. However, by the end of the story, Eliza seemed to have learned a lesson, and for that I liked her. Armand, her other love interest, begins as a minor character, but then plays some fairly big roles as the story progresses, and he struck me as being the only sensible male in the group, along with Eugene.

What I Disliked: While it’s true I grew to like Eliza once I realized she’d learned a lesson, I spent the majority of the book not really caring for her. Caroline is a mean, selfish, bratty little thing, and Madeleine goes a bit insane and doesn’t treat Eliza or Hortense the way she ought, considering they save her life. I liked Hortense at first, but her crush on her stepfather, Napoleon, is more than a little disturbing, and in the end, she falls under the category of scheming female, right along with all the other females in the book.

Believability: The Author admits that while her three main female characters - Hortense, Caroline, and Eliza - are real, went to the same boarding-school, and Hortense was Eliza’s good friend, she made up the situation. Eliza never went to the boarding-school in the year that the story takes place. Madeleine didn’t exist. And there’s no evidence Hortense loved her music teacher’s son. Even so, the Author has done research into the era, and the fact that she was able to make her story convincing - when the majority of it was fictional - shows that she knew what she was writing about.

Writing Style: Present-tense; urg. I didn’t like it for this story. Each chapter alternates between three narrators: Hortense, Eliza, and Madeleine. I did like this; I’ve always been a fan of that technique. And the Author manages to give each girl a distinctive narrative voice, so it doesn’t get confusing.

Content: Nothing! Madeleine’s mother maintains a string of lovers, but we never get any details beyond that. I’m glad that this book doesn’t follow along the lines of Anastasia’s Secret, and it could have easily done that.

Conclusion: Exciting. And unexpected. I really was not expecting the bittersweet note that it ends on. The Author may have fabricated the majority of the circumstances, but her characters still meet the same fates they did in real life. After I got over my initial surprise at the lack of “happily ever after,” I found that I liked the ending. It somehow suited.

Recommended Audience: This is definitely a girl read. Historical fiction romance fans will like it, especially romance fans who get tired of reading romance books that are full of content.

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