The Academie by Susanne Dunlap: Book Review

The AcademieTHE ACADEMIE by Susanne Dunlap Book Review
Publication Date: February 28th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Rating: – Poor |

Book Summary: Eliza Monroe – daughter of the future president of the United States-is devastated when her mother decides to send her to boarding school outside of Paris. But the young American teen is quickly reconciled to the idea when-ooh, la-la!-she discovers who her fellow pupils will be: Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Josephine Bonaparte; and Caroline Bonaparte, youngest sister of the famous French general. It doesn’t take long for Eliza to figure out that the two French girls are mortal enemies-and that she’s about to get caught in the middle of their schemes.

Loosely drawn from history, Eliza Monroe’s imagined coming of age provides a scintillating glimpse into the lives, loves, and hopes of three young women during one of the most volatile periods in French history.

The Academie by Susanne Dunlap Book Review Overview:

  • Love the concept, but did not enjoy the execution
  • Immature characters with uncompelling story lines
  • Lacking love interests

Post-French Revolution historical fiction is not one that I pick up a lot so I was really excited to read THE ACADEMIE by Susanne Dunlap. I admit that I do have a fascination with Napoleon (I didn’t realize he had such an interesting family!), and I wanted to get a glimpse of what life was like during his reign. I loved the idea of reading the novel from the perspective of the three main characters: Caroline, Napoleon’s younger sister; Hortense, the daughter of Napoleon’s wife; and Eliza, the daughter of the future United States president. When I picked this up, I intended to read a juicy story while learning a bit of history, but instead I got unnecessary drama and gossip.

THE ACADEMIE  by Susanne Dunlap is more about romance and gossip than anything else. I failed to understand the relevant historical context during which the novel took place in. Whenever something serious was going on, the girls always had to be in the middle of an extravagant scheme to get themselves where the action was happening. Unfortunately, the focus was put more on their elaborate cross-dressing than the political climate of the time. So I had read that Something Big happened, but I can’t as a reader tell you what.

I think the biggest problem that I had with THE ACADEMIE by Susanne Dunlap was that everything was just a little too convenient. The characters did run into trouble every now and then, but the story line still felt too perfect to be realistic. Part of that is because THE ACADEMIE is loosely based on true history – keyword here: loosely. Hortense, Caroline, and Eliza are all based on real people in history, but they were not all attending school at the same time. Dunlap had to stretch history a little in order to get all three girls together.

Of the three main characters, I disliked Eliza the most. To be honest, I really did not understand her importance as a character in the book. Okay, historically, Eliza does travel to France to study, but I fail to see the relevance of her character in the overall story. It’s not as if she acts as a catalyst that sets off even more drama between Caroline and Hortense; very early on in the story, it was clearly established that the two girls do not exactly get along. Eliza’s character felt out of place, and I just could not relate to her.

Furthermore, I know that Eliza is quite young, naive, and inexperienced when it comes to boys, but she is one of the reasons why I also was not fond of the romance in THE ACADEMIE  by Susanne Dunlap. It drove me crazy how Eliza can develop a massive crush after meeting a guy just once. She is already fantasizing about romance and a Happily Ever After when in reality they barely exchanged words. As far as the other love interests, I didn’t really find any of the romances to be quite compelling. I always love the idea of forbidden love, but it’s not as fun when there isn’t any chemistry between the two characters.

However, I did like the glimpse of Napoleon’s family dynamics in THE ACADEMIE by Susanne Dunlap. I constantly cheered Hortense on throughout the story, because out of everyone, she was clearly the underdog. There is a lot of tension between her and Caroline, but because Caroline is Napoleon’s sister, she can’t exactly complain about Caroline’s nastiness. And of course, it’s no secret that Caroline does not approve of Hortense’s mother, which only adds more to the drama. Furthermore, I loved reading about Hortense’s interactions with Napoleon, her mother, and her brother. Her relationship with her family is quite complex.

Bottom line: in terms of taste, I think there is still some appeal to those who are fans of historical fiction. However, I think THE ACADEMIE by Susanne Dunlap would appeal to fans of the Luxe series by Anna Godbersen rather than fans of Jennifer Donnelly’s novels such as REVOLUTION or A NORTHERN LIGHT. THE ACADEMIE by Susanne Dunlap full of gossip and drama but not much substance.

Other Book Reviews:
I’d So Rather Be Reading
Nina Reads
The Readventurer

About the Author

Susanne DunlapSusanne Dunlap is the author of six works of historical fiction. Two are for the adult market (Emilie’s Voice and Liszt’s Kiss, both published by Touchstone books of Simon & Schuster). Three are for the young adult market (The Musician’s Daughter, Anastasia’s Secret, In the Shadow of the Lamp, and the forthcoming The Academie, published by Bloomsbury). A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, New York and Northampton, MA. She now divides her time between Brooklyn and Northampton, has two grown daughters, two granddaughters, and is an avid cyclist and dog lover.

Find the Author

Website | GoodReads


    1. Thank you. Well, if you ever decide to pick it up, maybe you’ll end up liking it more than me…
      I’ve been quite the picky reader lately!

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