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Emilie's Voice by Susanne Dunlap

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Leyland
Bibliophile
Location: Travelers Rest SC

Emilie's Voice by Susanne Dunlap

Postby Leyland » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 4:21 pm

Emilie’s Voice is an easy to read, intricately plotted and informative 304 page story set primarily in the Versailles court of Louis XIV. The author launches directly into telling the story of pretty fifteen year old Emilie Jolicoeur’s emergence from her father’s Parisian musical instrument atelier to becoming a day vocal student under the instruction of Charpentier, a distinguished composer, at the home of a Guise princesse. The reader quickly follows Emilie’s progress in learning to hone her considerable natural vocal talent and also to appeal to the courtier world she will entertain by learning to read as well as attaining the graceful manners and etiquette required to mix among them as a favored singer. Many of the necessary historic details are presented by the author in a nicely concise way and the reader will definitely feel comfortably part of the era.

After Emilie’s singing debut at a gathering of the nobility in the glittering salon at Hotel de Guise around page 40, the story quickly changes to one in which Emilie becomes a pawn and virtual prisoner at Versailles to be used in the power struggle between the King’s mistress Madame de Montespan and the governess, Madame de Maintenon. She continues her vocal instruction now under the King’s master, Lully, and is being groomed by Maintenon to become an extraordinary singer in order to catch the King’s interest. Her voice certainly enthralls and transports its listeners and is of such value that Emilie herself is only of secondary importance. Montespan is meant to be vanquished from the King’s bed and life so that he may live up to his holy destiny as the greatest of all French kings and Maintenon is determined to use Emilie’s voice to this end. Maintenon does not retain control as one would expect and so several plot twists are played out.

Emilie remains incredibly innocent and naive throughout the entire story. It’s hard to believe she could endure tragic circumstances and traumatic events and still remain as simple as she seems to be. There is love and happiness for her entwined amid the tug of war she experiences as a pawn in the schemes of the mighty ‘mistresses’ reigning at Versailles. This is not exactly a coming-of-age story in that context. The Emilie you meet on page one is almost exactly the same Emilie you say good-bye to at the end of story, which contains a very surprising twist.

Several of the supporting characters are the ones experiencing and demonstrating marked personal changes in reaction to the events that change Emilie’s life. They include her parents, the noble godson of the Mademoiselle de Guise, a former maid at the Hotel de Guise, the distinguished composer Charpentier, and a servant/spy working for Maintenon. These characters populate the story with intensity and provide the opposition to or compliance with the cruel power games constructed by Montespan and Maintenon. Even when events appear to separate from these schemes, the crafty rivals manage to tug Emilie and her loved ones back into a terrible web of malicious deceit and forced life choices.

Emilie’s Voice contains many twists and is quite different from the usual rags to riches story. I’d recommend reading it for that reason as well as for the knowledge and writing skills of the author. Dreams become nightmares or vice versa for several characters and gritty realism are presented quite clearly by the author.

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Leyland
Bibliophile
Location: Travelers Rest SC

Postby Leyland » Tue September 2nd, 2008, 4:24 pm

Ms. Dunlap's method of describing Emilie's voice is considerable in many parts of the story. Not only does she competently (to vocally ignorant me anyway) let us know what technical ability and training is required to achieve Emilie's level, she also lets us know the immense joy it gives Emilie to use and improve her gift. The reader feels Emilie's despair when circumstances occur that force her to not sing for a while. This despair makes is easier to understand Emilie's choice made at the end of the story and fully revealed in the epilogue. I guess that's my impression regarding the epilogue - to understand her choice is to understand how deeply Emilie felt about always being able to sing.

The epilogue contains such deep poignancy. My thoughts then swirled to the King and his mistresses - what awful power they held over those gifted artisits and others whose fortunes were dependent on the largesse of courtiers. Puppets and pawns I guess.


NOTE: The above are additional comments I made after I originally posted my review on the old site on 5.18.08

tsjmom
Reader

Postby tsjmom » Fri August 7th, 2009, 12:18 am

"Leyland" wrote:
The epilogue contains such deep poignancy. My thoughts then swirled to the King and his mistresses - what awful power they held over those gifted artisits and others whose fortunes were dependent on the largesse of courtiers. Puppets and pawns I guess.




I completely agree with this Leyland. I thought the ending more powerful than the rest of the book. It seemed like any typical, light HF, but the ending was powerful.

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Divia
Bibliomaniac
Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Postby Divia » Fri August 7th, 2009, 12:31 am

Did you know this is a Young Adult book. The author is currently working on one about Anastasia.
News, views, and reviews on books and graphic novels for young adult.
http://yabookmarks.blogspot.com/


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