Two young women growing up in pre-Revolution France, set against the free-thinking French Enlightenment salons of Paris
On Sale: April 12, 2011
Featuring: Delphine; Lili
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Fiction Women's Fiction
Stanislas-Adélaïde du Châtelet, known as Lili, is a
thoughtful and serious girl growing up as the ward of a
Parisian noblewoman, Julie de Bercy. Madame de Bercy, a
friend of Lili's dead mother, the brilliant and
controversial scientist Emilie du Chatelet, has a
daughter, Delphine, the same age as Lili. Though they
could hardly be more different, the two girls grow up as
sisters, steadfast friends, and confidantes.
Lili can never understand Delphine's fascination with
frivolous things like beautiful dresses, perfect curtsies,
and fairytale endings. She wants the world of the mind, a
life in pursuit of the truth about nature and people.
Instead, she boards with Delphine at a convent school
where independent thinking is punished, and she endures
excruciating comportment lessons with one of the Châtelet
relatives, the prim and judgmental Baronne Lomont. It is
clear to Lili that she is expected to be satisfied with
having no goals in life other than to be a supportive
wife, charming conversationalist, and pious mother.
Home at Maison Bercy with warm and free-thinking Julie,
whom both Lili and Delphine call Maman, Lili is encouraged
to be herself and use her mind. Julie is one of a small
group of salonniéres in Paris, noblewomen who open their
homes at certain times each week to artists, writers, and
the group of French thinkers known as philosophes. Here
Lili is exposed to the radical and revolutionary ideas of
people such as famed naturalist George-Louis LeClerc
(better known as Comte de Buffon), encyclopedist Denis
Diderot, and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
But Julie cannot indefinitely hold off the pressure to
conform to social expectations. In their teens, both
Delphine and Lili must prepare for presentation at
Versailles, followed quickly by marriage. As the world
closes in on Lili, she decides that knowing more than the
sketchy details she has been told about her mother's life
may provide her with a better sense of herself. Hoping
that this knowledge will help her chart her own future,
with Delphine's loyal help, Lili ventures out to find the
people and places central to her mother's story.
Set in France during the last decades before the French
Revolution, Finding Emilie explores the complicated
tensions between the frivolity of court and the serious
pursuit of scientific knowledge, and the perils of being
caught between the demand for conformity and the need to
release and fulfill one's genius. Through Lili's
discoveries, Emilie du Châtelet speaks not just to her but
to us, about remaining true to ourselves regardless of our
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