Sigh. Sometimes when you read a book’s summary, you think WOW it sounds like this book and I are MEANT TO BE. And then you read the book and have a deep soul connection. Other times, you read the book and unfortunately end up disappointed. Friends, I did not experience a deep soul connection with The Académie by Susanne Dunlap.
The Académie is the story of three young girls – Eliza Monroe, future US President James Monroe’s daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais who is the stepdaughter of Napoleon Bonaparte , and Madeline who is an actress in the Comedie Francaise or however you spell it. Eliza and Hortense strike up a friendship at their French boarding school, run by Madame Campan who was a bedchamber attendant to Marie Antoinette. After getting over the reign of Terror, France is starting to put itself back together and the girls go to the school to learn how to be hostesses. Madeline is in love with Hortense’s brother, Eugene. Set in France during 1799 the story mainly focuses on the romantic interludes of the three girls and the growing friendship between Hortense and Eliza while Madeline is sort of on the periphery.
Unfortunately, I could not connect with the characters. I think this might have been because of the multiple narrators. Just as I would begin to get comfortable with or care about a character, the narration would switch to the point of view of another character. Like, I would have liked Hortense and maybe picked her as my favorite, but THEN she acts super back-stabby at the end. Eliza starts as a petulant child and while she changes, I couldn’t find myself caring because it seemed like I didn’t get that much time with her.
And Madeline. WELL. I thought she was interesting with her race and the societal implications that surrounded her being a Creole in 1799 in France which did not have slavery as opposed to America. Like ,that bit was really interesting and added some depth. BUT WHOA, okay Madeline got obsessive and felt awkwardly painful to read about.
Plus, I was so turned off by the end. It came out of left field to me. And I legit said out loud – ‘the F is this?’ Like, it was SO dramatic. And okay, I know some people like that sort of thing, but I was kind of snapped out of it. While I enjoy historical fiction, The Académie was not the book for me.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley.