Thursday, June 20, 2013

Belle Epoque

Belle EpoqueRoss, Elizabeth. Bell Epoque.
11 June 2013, Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Maude has moved to Paris from a small country town in the 1880s to escape marriage to an older man. She finds it harder to find work and survive than she imagined, so when she  answers an ad and is offered employment at an agency that rents out repoussoirs, plain or ugly young women who act as companions and foils to debutantes to make them appear more beautiful, she is forced to take it. She ends up pretending to be a friend of the family of Isabelle Dubern, and does such a good job that she is offered exclusive employment with the family. Isabelle comes to consider her a friend, and confides her dreams of studying science at the Sorbonne. This is a problem, because Maude's job (and future employment as well) hinges on getting Isabelle to marry a wealthy man. Maude manages to make friends of her own in Paris, including the composer Paul Villette, and many of the other girls at the agency. She also learns to take photographs, and Isabelle gives her a camera as a gift. In the end, Maude and Isabelle both refuse to bow to societal norms, and instead embark on the difficult mission of making their own way in the world.
Strengths: *Sigh* This was a wonderful book. So many good things going on-- the high society, the burgeoning new middle class and their ideas of freedom and equality, the arts. Pair this one with the (slightly later in time) Cinders and Sapphires. The best part of this? Nothing inappropriate for middle school. I may buy a copy because I adored it so much.
Weaknesses: Might be a hard sell, but perhaps the one thing that almost dissuaded me from reading it (the languid girl in the fancy dress on the cover) will make the girls pick this one up.

Survive Morel, Alex. Survive.
2 August 2012, Razorbill

Picked this up at a Book Look and had such great hopes for it. Sounded like Hatchet meets Cut. Sadly, it started off with too many gratuitous f-bombs, so I will send this off to the high school, where it will probably circulate well.

"Jane is on a plane on her way home to Montclair, New Jersey, from a mental hospital. She is about to kill herself. Just before she can swallow a lethal dose of pills, the plane hits turbulence and everything goes black. Jane wakes up amidst piles of wreckage and charred bodies on a snowy mountaintop. There is only one other survivor: a boy named Paul, who inspires Jane to want to fight for her life for the first time.

Jane and Paul scale icy slopes and huddle together for warmth at night, forging an intense emotional bond. But the wilderness is a vast and lethal force, and only one of them will survive."

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