Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Time Traveling Fashionista At the Palace of Marie Antoinette by Bianca Turetsky

Having recovered from her time travel to the doomed Titanic, Louise is ready for another adventure.

Louise, who lives with her mom and lawyer dad in Fairview, Connecticut has just barely recovered from her escapades on the Titanic. This installment of The Time-Traveling Fashionista opens with Louise's father having just been laid off from his law firm in New York City.

How her family will cope remains to be seen. Her mother grew up in England in a wealthy family that had maids and nannies and is used to a privileged life. Louise, an only child,  is also used to a life where money isn't a problem but that is about to change. Her Grade 7 class is planning a school trip to France, but with her father being laid off, this trip is now likely only a dream.

It isn't long before Louise's worst fear is confirmed and her mother and father tell her they can no longer afford to send her to France. While her friends Brooke and Todd are excited about going, Louise is angry about her parent's decision.

Still upset about their decision, Louise decides to attend another Traveling Fashionista vintage sale. At first she is unable to locate the store which has a different location than the first sale. She finds the new store down a mysterious laneway at an address that doesn't show up on her phone. In the store she again meets Marla and Glenda, the two strange shopkeepers who show her dozens of fancy dresses. One dress however, catches Louise's attention. While her friend Brooke has caused the two shopkeepers to be distracted, Louise slips into the dress and time travels to France during the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Louise slips into the life of a beautiful palace girl named Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron,  Duchesse de Polignac, who is friends with both Marie Antoinette and the Princess de Lamballe. Living in Versailles, the palace of  Louis and Marie Antoinette, Louise experiences all the decadence and frivolity of the French court in late 18th century France. She wears gowns made of rich fabric and priceless jewels, and attends balls and dinner parties where extravagent food is plentiful. When she travels to Paris with Marie Antoinette to visit the couture dress shop of Rose Bertin, Louise has her eyes open to the extreme poverty of the common people. She tries to warn Marie Antoinette to take into consideration the situation of her adopted countrymen. But the young queen doesn't understand and seems oblivious to the plight of the French people.

All of this makes Louise reconsider her own situation at home, with her father now unemployed. She realizes that some problems, liking having enough money to live are timeless and that her situation is not so bad after all.

As time passes, Louise realizes she needs to get home, but first she needs to find the beautiful dress that transported her to 18th century France. Suspecting an older woman in the court, Adelaide, of hiding her dress, Louise confronts her, only to learn an astonishing secret.

This novel is a light easy read that combines fashion with history. The author shows how Marie Antoinette's love of fashion initially led her adopted country to admire and love her and how she initiated the beginnings of  haute couture. However, that love disappeared as the French court's extravagance led to a nationwide financial crisis that impoverished French citizens and eventually led to their revolt and the wholesale murder of the French aristocracy.

Turetsky presents a balanced approach to the topic of Marie Antoinette, a much maligned historical figure. While Louise is deeply disturbed by the contrast between the aristocracy and the common people in France, she also is empathetic towards Marie Antoinette, who was sent to marry and live in a foreign country without any family around her. To help readers learn more about the people Louise meets in 18th century France, Turetsky has Louise research them on the internet to learn more about what happened to them once the country was thrown into revolution.

Once again The Time-Traveling Fashionista is filled with illustrator, Sandra Suy's beautiful fashion drawings, which add to the overall charm of the novel. Readers will be delighted by the revelations Turetsky throws in near the end of her story about the Traveling Fashionista and there's a hint of future romance for Louise.

The third novel in this series,  The Time Traveling Fashionista and Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile is due out later this year. These novels are highly recommended for young teens.

Book Details:
The Time Traveling Fashionista At the Palace of Marie Antoinette by Bianca Turetsky
New York: Little, Brown         2012
258 pp.

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