Title: Cecile: Gates of Gold
Author: Mary Casanova
Series: Girls of Many Lands
Genre: Middle Grade – Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2002
Age Recommendation: Upper Elementary School, Middle School
Twelve-year-old Cecile Revel is given a change to leave her peasant life and serve at King Louis XIV’s court. She finds life within the palace gates is not as full of ease and elegance as she had imagined. Faced with a test of conscience, Cecile shows that behaving in a noble matter has little to do with one’s place at birth.
(Summary from Goodreads)
Cecile was a fast-paced, easily digested historical fiction set in the court of King Louis XIV of France (also known to history as the Sun King), also known as the Sun King. Not only did Casanova do a great job bringing it to life, she did it in a way that didn’t overwhelm the reader with details, with a heroine who was both courageous and vulnerable.
While the plot was straightforward enough – Cecile is a peasant girl who becomes a servant in the Sun King’s court – the background details were anything but. Through Cecile’s eyes, we get a taste of the wealth gap in France during this time, which sets up brilliantly for what happens a few decades after the end of the book: the French Revolution. We also get a look at how everything at the court of Versailles was one big show, with references to things like everyone watching King Louis get dressed in the morning and everyone crowding in to watch the dauphine during childbirth. We get the sense that France is the royal family’s personal playground, all with just a few well-placed details.
Even more than that, I loved Cecile, the main character and narrator. She is quick-witted and brave, shown by her willingness to take a stand on things she believes in despite the consequences, yet at the same time she’s not afraid to be vulnerable, shown whenever people talk about her father or when she starts to miss him. She’s also not afraid to admit her mistakes, most especially when she acknowledges her shame at denying her connection to her father and his questionable past.
Cecile would be perfect for anyone who has finished all of the Little House and Dear America and books and doesn’t know what to read next.
Rating: 4/5 Stars