Lit Literature Reviews are designed for the busy English teacher. If you’re looking to build a quality classroom library quickly, or get the right books into the hands of the right students, look no further! Lit Literature Reviews give you quick book stats like length and Lexile, an overview of the book’s strengths, and a profile for its perfect reader. Without further ado, everything you need to know about Belle Epoque….
Title: Belle Epoque
Author: Elizabeth Ross
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Setting: Victorian France
Main Character: Maude Pichon, a poor, French girl who has run away from an arranged marriage to Paris
Page Numbers: 352
What drew me in:
Most of my reading lately has been pretty heavy. I’ve been researching alternative African American literature titles for my course, which led to The Hate U Give. I love, love that book and am now in the middle of teaching it, but after being so engrossed in such serious subject matter, I wanted something a little lighter. A little bit of French romance sounded like the ticket and, I’ll be honest, the beautiful cover drew me in.
What makes this literature lit?
The premise behind Belle Epoque caught my interest right away. When Maude arrives in Paris, she is desperate for work, but accidentally finds herself working for an agency that only hires ugly women! These women are meant to be foils to beautiful, upper class women who hire them to make themselves appear more attractive by comparison. Maude is horrified to find that she qualifies for the agency, but with rent due in the pricey capital city, she has few options.
One of the threads throughout this novel is the problem of Maude trying to maintain her own self-worth while all of society tells her that she is ugly and plain. I think many of our adolescent students can relate to this feeling. As the story goes and Maude meets new people and explores the city, she learns more about herself–that she is able to deeply enjoy art and even has a knack for artistic expression. She develops, destroys, and re-establishes and rebuilds friendships as she works to find her own identity–something else we can see our students struggling with on their own journeys of self-discovery. And of course, there is romance, although less of the puppy-dog type love and more of a loving, mutual appreciation for one another.
I think this book would be a great addition to your classroom library if you have some teen girls struggling with their own self-esteem, self-worth, or who just love historical fiction. I’m a sucker for any story with corsets and ballrooms and read the whole thing in less than a week!
Looking for more great reads for your classroom?