Emilie's Voice

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Overview

Set against the backdrop of Paris and the court of Versailles, émilie's Voice introduces a young heroine of modest upbringing who possesses a special gift: the voice of an angel. When distinguished composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier hears émilie's voice, he offers to instruct her in the art of singing with the ultimate goal of presenting her at the court of Louis XIV. Her head filled with dreams of elegant gowns, opulent jewels, and the thrill of someday performing in the great houses of Paris, she begins her ...
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Emilie's Voice: A Novel

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Overview

Set against the backdrop of Paris and the court of Versailles, émilie's Voice introduces a young heroine of modest upbringing who possesses a special gift: the voice of an angel. When distinguished composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier hears émilie's voice, he offers to instruct her in the art of singing with the ultimate goal of presenting her at the court of Louis XIV. Her head filled with dreams of elegant gowns, opulent jewels, and the thrill of someday performing in the great houses of Paris, she begins her training -- until a scheming noblewoman looking to unseat the king's official mistress interferes by preemptively bringing émilie to Versailles.

There, amid royal pomp and splendor, she is swept up in dangerous palatial intrigues, becoming a pawn in aristocratic power games. But it is the passionate battle for control over her life and career waged between Charpentier and Louis XIV's official court composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully, that has far-reaching consequences for a girl on the verge of becoming a woman and a singer on the verge of becoming extraordinary.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A young singer is ensnared by intrigue at the Sun King's court. Emilie Jolicoeur, the daughter of a luthier, is 15 when she and her phenomenal soprano are noticed by (real-life) composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier during a visit to her father's Paris atelier. Charpentier begins teaching her in his studio at the grand house of his patroness, the Duchesse de Guise. Meanwhile, the duchess's godson, impoverished aristocrat Comte de St. Paul, seeks to exploit the enmity between Madame de Montespan, Louis XIV's current mistress, and fete-pooper Madame de Maintenon, 17th-century Versailles' answer to Billy Sunday. When he hears Emilie sing at his godmother's soiree, St. Paul sees his ticket out of debt. He conspires with Madame de Maintenon to spirit Emilie to Versailles. They plan to introduce the songbird at court and eventually to the king's bed; with the help of some time-release poison, the assignation will be enough to put Louis off whoopie in general and Montespan in particular. Montespan, no fool, makes arrangements to have the now 16-year-old Emilie re-abducted after her performance as Alceste in an opera by Lully, Charpentier's archrival. The re-abductor will be Charpentier, Emilie's heartthrob. Maintenon is relieved to hear this, because poisoning ingenues is against her religion. Emilie, having captivated the king as Alceste, receives a jeweled brooch and an invitation to present herself at the royal chambers around midnight. Hedging her bets, Maintenon sends her servant Francois to Emilie's room with the killer claret. Beset by pre-re-abduction misgivings, Emilie is teetering on her windowsill when...Faked death, a new identity, a secret marriage, a miscarriage, a duel and are-re-abduction follow, amid a dizzying array of purloined letters, spies and contretemps. Even Guise's maid, Sophie, gets her own subplot. The serpentine and confusing plot aside, musicologist Dunlap's first offers a vivid, entertaining panorama of the period.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743265065
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 3/29/2005
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 0.72 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 8.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Susanne Dunlap is the author of Émilie's Voice and the former director of development for Connecticut Opera. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Northampton, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

What seems like generosity is often no more than disguised ambition, that disdains little interests to achieve greater ones.

François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxim 246

One day in April 1676, the sound of laughter drew Madame de Maintenon to the window in her apartment at the château of Versailles. Below her, half a dozen ladies wearing bright-colored gowns clustered around one who was dressed all in white, a velvet blindfold covering her eyes, her blond hair brassy in the spring sunlight. The ladies turned their blindfolded companion around and around, singing a rhyme as they did, until she looked like a yellow-crowned stamen in the center of an enormous silk blossom. Madame de Maintenon — known as the widow Scarron to her enemies — uttered a tsk of disapproval and was about to turn back into her room when she noticed a gentleman behind a yew hedge, peeking at the game through the branches. When the rhyme ended, all the ladies scattered like petals, leaving the one with the blindfold staggering and laughing, alone against the emerald grass. The gentleman stepped out from his hiding place. He moved gracefully, and with a regal air. The blond-haired lady, dizzy from her game and unaware of his presence, stumbled into him as if he were nothing more than a shrub, or a servant who wandered into her path. The gentleman removed her blindfold with a gallant flourish and, in front of the other ladies, kissed her. All of them stopped in their tracks and curtsied deeply.

The widow Scarron closed the shutters abruptly. But the sunlight crept in anyway between the louvers and painted bright streaks across her austere parlor, which was furnished only with a few wooden chairs, a bookshelf, and a gilded prie-dieu. She knelt there and started to pray, beating her forehead rhythmically with the heel of her hand as her lips formed the familiar Latin phrases in a low, constant mutter. After a quarter of an hour, the sound of fingernails scratching on her door interrupted her. Emerging slowly from her deep concentration, she stood and said, "Come."

A middle-aged footman entered and bowed. "Monsieur de St. Paul is here, Madame."

"Show him in, François."

St. Paul walked past the servant, not waiting to be summoned. He flared his nostrils at the simplicity of the room, then set his features in a practiced smile. "Madame de Maintenon. To what do I owe the honor of being asked to attend you?"

"Monsieur de St. Paul, I understand that you are in debt."

The smile left the count's lips. He reached into his waistcoat, took out a gold snuffbox, and helped himself to a generous pinch.

The widow Scarron did not wait for him to answer. "There's no point denying it. And I would not have asked you here if you weren't. I would like to offer you a way to change your situation in life greatly for the better."

St. Paul sneezed loudly and dabbed his nose with a lace-edged handkerchief. "I am all attention, Madame."

"Are you aware, Monsieur de St. Paul, that the king's confessor has threatened to deny His Majesty communion?"

St. Paul shrugged his shoulders almost imperceptibly.

"This is a serious matter, Monsieur. His Majesty is God's chosen representative to lead the people of France, and he must not be diminished in their eyes. I think we both know who is responsible for his unfortunate weakness in these matters." Madame de Maintenon turned her head toward the window. The sound of laughter still filtered up from the garden.

"It will not be so easy, Madame, to turn the king from that path."

"Nonetheless," Madame de Maintenon said, looking St. Paul directly in the eyes, "we must try."

Late that same afternoon, in a humble workshop on the Bridge of Commerce — one of the bridges laden with buildings connecting the île de la Cité with the quays on the right bank of the Seine — Émilie Jolicoeur sat on the floor and leaned against the leg of a large worktable, building fairy castles out of the curled shavings of maple and spruce that were scattered around her. Her father, Marcel, focused all his attention on wielding a small, sharp knife to make the final adjustments to the bridge of a violin. It was a commission, for the composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. This was an important job: Monsieur Charpentier was a fine musician and a member of the household of Mademoiselle de Guise. In the few years since he returned from Italy, he had already made a stir in the capital. If he liked the violin, many people would hear of it, and more work would surely follow.

"Émilie!"

Émilie's mother yelled down the three flights of stairs that separated their apartment from her husband's workshop at street level. Émilie did not answer her.

"Didn't you hear your maman?" asked Marcel. He stood from his task and stretched. The setting sun radiated from around his body, which blocked some of the light from the window that looked out over the river toward the Pont Neuf. He was about to try out the violin to see if it sounded as good as he hoped it would.

"Please, Papa, just let me stay to hear you play." Émilie used the tone of voice that she knew would get her what she wanted.

Marcel met his daughter's eager gaze and could barely suppress a smile. "For a minute, but on one condition. You must sing while I play."

In her haste to get up from the floor, Émilie banged her head on the edge of the worktable.

"You are too grown up now to sit on the floor like a child," said Marcel. "If your maman has her way, soon we will have to find you a husband!"

Émilie pursed her lips in a mock pout. "I don't want to leave you, Papa, unless I marry someone who can make violins just like you."

"So, you want to be poor and have to work hard all the time like your mother?" Without waiting for his daughter to reply, Marcel took up a bow and slowly stroked it across the A string of the violin, making a round note that vibrated and swelled until it filled the crowded space.

When Émilie was an infant, she had slept in a cot in the workshop while her mother ran errands. She began to use her voice to match the pitches she heard in the cradle even before she could talk. When she was a toddler, Marcel would play little tunes for her to mimic. Émilie's ear was acute, and her ability to reproduce a sound almost uncanny. This private exchange between father and daughter had been nothing more than a game at first. But as she grew older, Émilie's voice grew too. Marcel had come to think it very pretty and would find excuses to have her sing to him. She sang nursery rhymes and folk songs in a clear, sweet tone. Nothing pleased him more than to hear her quiet tunes while he worked. He loved to have her sing along while he plucked at or drew a bow across the strings of a newly completed lute or pochette or viol or violin.

Of all the different instruments her father made, Émilie liked violins the best. She loved the warm, sad sound they made, and tried her hardest to make her voice sound just the same. But it was too young and light, too childish to match the subtle richness of gut strings and carefully aged and varnished woods. At least, it had been every time before.

But something extraordinary happened that day.

Émilie closed her eyes and opened her mouth, and the sound she produced was every bit as strong, every bit as rich, as the note Marcel played on the violin he had just finished making. At first Émilie did not hear herself. She only felt the way the sound resonated in her entire body. It was so wonderful, so freeing, to let the music stream out of her, as if she had bottled it up her whole life and was just waiting for it to escape, that she did not notice that her father had stopped his playing, and that the rich tone that washed over the other instruments and set their strings quivering in sympathy came from between her own lips.

"Émilie!"

She stopped singing and opened her eyes. The ghost of the sound she had just been making still reverberated around her. Her father had a strange look on his face.

"I didn't know you could — can you do that again?" Marcel laid the violin down gently on the workbench.

Émilie sang the pitch she had heard before, opening her voice as far as it would go and putting her whole heart into that one, beautiful note. Then, when she could do no more with it, she moved to other pitches and fashioned a little tune with them. When she sang higher, the sound of her voice became sweeter, more intense. Lower, it opened out like a flower. The feeling was entirely new to her. It was not like the singing she had done before. It came from somewhere else. Something, she was not quite certain what, had happened. Perhaps it was because of the beautiful violin, a copy of an Italian instrument that Monsieur Charpentier had brought back with him. Or perhaps not. Whatever it was, it had changed her voice forever.

Marcel tried to say something, but when he opened his mouth, nothing came out.

"Shall we go upstairs to dinner?" Émilie asked.

Marcel nodded, put his tools away, and followed his daughter up the three flights of stairs to their apartment on the top floor.

"What kept you! The soup will be spoiled," Madeleine Jolicoeur said, standing like a narrow stone pillar in front of the table that occupied the very middle of their apartment.

"Don't be cross," said Marcel. "I kept her. She was singing for me."

"Well, she can just sing for her supper then!"

Madeleine turned to stir the pot on the fire. Émilie fetched the wooden bowls from the small cupboard near the chimney and stood and held each one as her mother dished out the potage with a huge wooden ladle. Then from the same cupboard she brought a cutting board, a knife, and a round loaf of bread to the table.

"Her place is here, learning how to make the dinner, learning how to keep a house. You let her stay down there, and why? She is not a son, she cannot take over your business and make violins. She is fourteen. Old enough to marry, and what does she know?"

Marcel did not answer but sat down to his meal. Émilie sat as well, but she barely noticed what she did. Her mind was busy with wonder about the voice that had burst out of her just minutes before. Still, she lifted her bowl to her lips repeatedly and drank the soup until it was gone, hardly tasting it on the way. All the time she did so, she gazed out through the small window under the eaves that faced west. From where she sat, all she could see was the pale blue sky, but she knew that, if she were right at the window, she would be able to see the Louvre, the great palace that belonged to the king, in the distance.

"What are you gawking at?" Madeleine had caught Émilie staring at nothing.

"Mama, why doesn't the king live at the Louvre?"

"I don't know. They say it's not finished. Maybe it's drafty."

"Where does he live then?"

"St. Germain mostly. And Versailles, more and more, so they say."

Mother and daughter cleared up after dinner while Marcel sat in the only armchair and smoked his pipe. Then when the fire died down, they all went to bed, Marcel and Madeleine to their curtained enclosure on one side of the room, and Émilie to her narrow cot on the other.

Copyright © 2005 by Susanne Dunlap

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First Chapter

Chapter One

What seems like generosity is often no more than disguised ambition, that disdains little interests to achieve greater ones.

François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxim 246

One day in April 1676, the sound of laughter drew Madame de Maintenon to the window in her apartment at the château of Versailles. Below her, half a dozen ladies wearing bright-colored gowns clustered around one who was dressed all in white, a velvet blindfold covering her eyes, her blond hair brassy in the spring sunlight. The ladies turned their blindfolded companion around and around, singing a rhyme as they did, until she looked like a yellow-crowned stamen in the center of an enormous silk blossom. Madame de Maintenon -- known as the widow Scarron to her enemies -- uttered a tsk of disapproval and was about to turn back into her room when she noticed a gentleman behind a yew hedge, peeking at the game through the branches. When the rhyme ended, all the ladies scattered like petals, leaving the one with the blindfold staggering and laughing, alone against the emerald grass. The gentleman stepped out from his hiding place. He moved gracefully, and with a regal air. The blond-haired lady, dizzy from her game and unaware of his presence, stumbled into him as if he were nothing more than a shrub, or a servant who wandered into her path. The gentleman removed her blindfold with a gallant flourish and, in front of the other ladies, kissed her. All of them stopped in their tracks and curtsied deeply.

The widow Scarron closed the shutters abruptly. But the sunlight crept in anyway between the louvers andpainted bright streaks across her austere parlor, which was furnished only with a few wooden chairs, a bookshelf, and a gilded prie-dieu. She knelt there and started to pray, beating her forehead rhythmically with the heel of her hand as her lips formed the familiar Latin phrases in a low, constant mutter. After a quarter of an hour, the sound of fingernails scratching on her door interrupted her. Emerging slowly from her deep concentration, she stood and said, "Come."

A middle-aged footman entered and bowed. "Monsieur de St. Paul is here, Madame."

"Show him in, François."

St. Paul walked past the servant, not waiting to be summoned. He flared his nostrils at the simplicity of the room, then set his features in a practiced smile. "Madame de Maintenon. To what do I owe the honor of being asked to attend you?"

"Monsieur de St. Paul, I understand that you are in debt."

The smile left the count's lips. He reached into his waistcoat, took out a gold snuffbox, and helped himself to a generous pinch.

The widow Scarron did not wait for him to answer. "There's no point denying it. And I would not have asked you here if you weren't. I would like to offer you a way to change your situation in life greatly for the better."

St. Paul sneezed loudly and dabbed his nose with a lace-edged handkerchief. "I am all attention, Madame."

"Are you aware, Monsieur de St. Paul, that the king's confessor has threatened to deny His Majesty communion?"

St. Paul shrugged his shoulders almost imperceptibly.

"This is a serious matter, Monsieur. His Majesty is God's chosen representative to lead the people of France, and he must not be diminished in their eyes. I think we both know who is responsible for his unfortunate weakness in these matters." Madame de Maintenon turned her head toward the window. The sound of laughter still filtered up from the garden.

"It will not be so easy, Madame, to turn the king from that path."

"Nonetheless," Madame de Maintenon said, looking St. Paul directly in the eyes, "we must try."

Late that same afternoon, in a humble workshop on the Bridge of Commerce -- one of the bridges laden with buildings connecting the île de la CitÉ with the quays on the right bank of the Seine -- Émilie Jolicoeur sat on the floor and leaned against the leg of a large worktable, building fairy castles out of the curled shavings of maple and spruce that were scattered around her. Her father, Marcel, focused all his attention on wielding a small, sharp knife to make the final adjustments to the bridge of a violin. It was a commission, for the composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. This was an important job: Monsieur Charpentier was a fine musician and a member of the household of Mademoiselle de Guise. In the few years since he returned from Italy, he had already made a stir in the capital. If he liked the violin, many people would hear of it, and more work would surely follow.

"Émilie!"

Émilie's mother yelled down the three flights of stairs that separated their apartment from her husband's workshop at street level. Émilie did not answer her.

"Didn't you hear your maman?" asked Marcel. He stood from his task and stretched. The setting sun radiated from around his body, which blocked some of the light from the window that looked out over the river toward the Pont Neuf. He was about to try out the violin to see if it sounded as good as he hoped it would.

"Please, Papa, just let me stay to hear you play." Émilie used the tone of voice that she knew would get her what she wanted.

Marcel met his daughter's eager gaze and could barely suppress a smile. "For a minute, but on one condition. You must sing while I play."

In her haste to get up from the floor, Émilie banged her head on the edge of the worktable.

"You are too grown up now to sit on the floor like a child," said Marcel. "If your maman has her way, soon we will have to find you a husband!"

Émilie pursed her lips in a mock pout. "I don't want to leave you, Papa, unless I marry someone who can make violins just like you."

"So, you want to be poor and have to work hard all the time like your mother?" Without waiting for his daughter to reply, Marcel took up a bow and slowly stroked it across the A string of the violin, making a round note that vibrated and swelled until it filled the crowded space.

When Émilie was an infant, she had slept in a cot in the workshop while her mother ran errands. She began to use her voice to match the pitches she heard in the cradle even before she could talk. When she was a toddler, Marcel would play little tunes for her to mimic. Émilie's ear was acute, and her ability to reproduce a sound almost uncanny. This private exchange between father and daughter had been nothing more than a game at first. But as she grew older, Émilie's voice grew too. Marcel had come to think it very pretty and would find excuses to have her sing to him. She sang nursery rhymes and folk songs in a clear, sweet tone. Nothing pleased him more than to hear her quiet tunes while he worked. He loved to have her sing along while he plucked at or drew a bow across the strings of a newly completed lute or pochette or viol or violin.

Of all the different instruments her father made, Émilie liked violins the best. She loved the warm, sad sound they made, and tried her hardest to make her voice sound just the same. But it was too young and light, too childish to match the subtle richness of gut strings and carefully aged and varnished woods. At least, it had been every time before.

But something extraordinary happened that day.

Émilie closed her eyes and opened her mouth, and the sound she produced was every bit as strong, every bit as rich, as the note Marcel played on the violin he had just finished making. At first Émilie did not hear herself. She only felt the way the sound resonated in her entire body. It was so wonderful, so freeing, to let the music stream out of her, as if she had bottled it up her whole life and was just waiting for it to escape, that she did not notice that her father had stopped his playing, and that the rich tone that washed over the other instruments and set their strings quivering in sympathy came from between her own lips.

"Émilie!"

She stopped singing and opened her eyes. The ghost of the sound she had just been making still reverberated around her. Her father had a strange look on his face.

"I didn't know you could -- can you do that again?" Marcel laid the violin down gently on the workbench.

Émilie sang the pitch she had heard before, opening her voice as far as it would go and putting her whole heart into that one, beautiful note. Then, when she could do no more with it, she moved to other pitches and fashioned a little tune with them. When she sang higher, the sound of her voice became sweeter, more intense. Lower, it opened out like a flower. The feeling was entirely new to her. It was not like the singing she had done before. It came from somewhere else. Something, she was not quite certain what, had happened. Perhaps it was because of the beautiful violin, a copy of an Italian instrument that Monsieur Charpentier had brought back with him. Or perhaps not. Whatever it was, it had changed her voice forever.

Marcel tried to say something, but when he opened his mouth, nothing came out.

"Shall we go upstairs to dinner?" Émilie asked.

Marcel nodded, put his tools away, and followed his daughter up the three flights of stairs to their apartment on the top floor.

"What kept you! The soup will be spoiled," Madeleine Jolicoeur said, standing like a narrow stone pillar in front of the table that occupied the very middle of their apartment.

"Don't be cross," said Marcel. "I kept her. She was singing for me."

"Well, she can just sing for her supper then!"

Madeleine turned to stir the pot on the fire. Émilie fetched the wooden bowls from the small cupboard near the chimney and stood and held each one as her mother dished out the potage with a huge wooden ladle. Then from the same cupboard she brought a cutting board, a knife, and a round loaf of bread to the table.

"Her place is here, learning how to make the dinner, learning how to keep a house. You let her stay down there, and why? She is not a son, she cannot take over your business and make violins. She is fourteen. Old enough to marry, and what does she know?"

Marcel did not answer but sat down to his meal. Émilie sat as well, but she barely noticed what she did. Her mind was busy with wonder about the voice that had burst out of her just minutes before. Still, she lifted her bowl to her lips repeatedly and drank the soup until it was gone, hardly tasting it on the way. All the time she did so, she gazed out through the small window under the eaves that faced west. From where she sat, all she could see was the pale blue sky, but she knew that, if she were right at the window, she would be able to see the Louvre, the great palace that belonged to the king, in the distance.

"What are you gawking at?" Madeleine had caught Émilie staring at nothing.

"Mama, why doesn't the king live at the Louvre?"

"I don't know. They say it's not finished. Maybe it's drafty."

"Where does he live then?"

"St. Germain mostly. And Versailles, more and more, so they say."

Mother and daughter cleared up after dinner while Marcel sat in the only armchair and smoked his pipe. Then when the fire died down, they all went to bed, Marcel and Madeleine to their curtained enclosure on one side of the room, and Émilie to her narrow cot on the other.

Copyright © 2005 by Susanne Dunlap

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Introduction

Touchstone Reading Group Guide

Emilie's Voice

By Susanne Dunlap

1. Emilie's mother, Madeleine, is reluctant to let her take singing lessons. In fact, for most of the story she has only negative things to say about Emilie's good fortune. Why do you suppose she is so gruff with her daughter? Do you blame her for what happens to Emilie?

2. Emilie is consistently portrayed as being very innocent and naïve. Do you think this is a positive character trait? Why or why not?

3. What is it about Emilie that Charpentier falls in love with? Or is he just enamored of her voice and beauty?

4. Why do you think François agrees to help Emilie write to Charpentier, when it could get him in serious trouble? (This may be more obvious in the final version.)

5. Madame de Maintenon purports to be a pious woman who wants nothing more than to save the King's soul. Do you think her scheming is truly for religious purposes? What other motives might she have?

6. When the Marquise de Montespan tells Emilie that she is obviously in love with Charpentier, how does Emilie react? Do you think she finally realizes the nature of her feelings for him, or is the Marquise correct in assuming that Emilie is only in love with the idea of love?

7. Emilie's Voice portrays the royal court of King Louis XIV as a hotbed of scandal, scheming, and sexual mischief. How does this contrast with the concept of staid nobility, reverence, and religion? Does the royal court have a modern counterpart?

8. Imagine yourself living at court in Versailles, where "invisibility is worse than death." Do you think you would enjoy it? Could you survive in such a treacherousenvironment?

9. Emilie feels that she cannot tell Charpentier that she loves him, even when he says he loves her. Given her decision to enter the convent, do you think Emilie ever truly loved Charpentier? Do you think she loves her voice more?

10. Emilie makes very few decisions for herself in this story. How is she used by those around her? Do you think that, in his own way, even Charpentier uses her? Why do you think Emilie refuses, or is unable, to take charge of her own life?

11. The author has cleverly tied several subplots to create a slowly building sense of anxiety about Emilie's fate. What are some of the threads that threaten to entangle and ensnare Emilie? Do you think she ultimately triumphs or succumbs?

12. How did you expect the novel to end? Were you satisfied with the ending?

13. Music is at the heart of this novel. How does the author convey its importance and demonstrate its effect on the characters? Do you have an image of what Emilie's voice must have been like? Does the author succeed in making you "hear" the novel?

14. Could what happened to Emilie in the 17th century happen to someone today? Why or why not? What about Emilie is very old fashioned, and what is not? Are there any characters that bring to mind modern-day counterparts?

Susanne Dunlap is the author of Émilie's Voice and the former director of development for Connecticut Opera. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Northampton, Massachusetts.

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Reading Group Guide

Touchstone Reading Group Guide

Emilie's Voice

By Susanne Dunlap

1. Emilie's mother, Madeleine, is reluctant to let her take singing lessons. In fact, for most of the story she has only negative things to say about Emilie's good fortune. Why do you suppose she is so gruff with her daughter? Do you blame her for what happens to Emilie?

2. Emilie is consistently portrayed as being very innocent and naïve. Do you think this is a positive character trait? Why or why not?

3. What is it about Emilie that Charpentier falls in love with? Or is he just enamored of her voice and beauty?

4. Why do you think François agrees to help Emilie write to Charpentier, when it could get him in serious trouble? (This may be more obvious in the final version.)

5. Madame de Maintenon purports to be a pious woman who wants nothing more than to save the King's soul. Do you think her scheming is truly for religious purposes? What other motives might she have?

6. When the Marquise de Montespan tells Emilie that she is obviously in love with Charpentier, how does Emilie react? Do you think she finally realizes the nature of her feelings for him, or is the Marquise correct in assuming that Emilie is only in love with the idea of love?

7. Emilie's Voice portrays the royal court of King Louis XIV as a hotbed of scandal, scheming, and sexual mischief. How does this contrast with the concept of staid nobility, reverence, and religion? Does the royal court have a modern counterpart?

8. Imagine yourself living at court in Versailles, where "invisibility is worse than death." Do you think you would enjoy it? Could you survive in such a treacherous environment?

9. Emilie feels that she cannot tell Charpentier that she loves him, even when he says he loves her. Given her decision to enter the convent, do you think Emilie ever truly loved Charpentier? Do you think she loves her voice more?

10. Emilie makes very few decisions for herself in this story. How is she used by those around her? Do you think that, in his own way, even Charpentier uses her? Why do you think Emilie refuses, or is unable, to take charge of her own life?

11. The author has cleverly tied several subplots to create a slowly building sense of anxiety about Emilie's fate. What are some of the threads that threaten to entangle and ensnare Emilie? Do you think she ultimately triumphs or succumbs?

12. How did you expect the novel to end? Were you satisfied with the ending?

13. Music is at the heart of this novel. How does the author convey its importance and demonstrate its effect on the characters? Do you have an image of what Emilie's voice must have been like? Does the author succeed in making you "hear" the novel?

14. Could what happened to Emilie in the 17th century happen to someone today? Why or why not? What about Emilie is very old fashioned, and what is not? Are there any characters that bring to mind modern-day counterparts?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2009

    Surprisingly Good

    Although this story takes place in the era of the Sun King in Versailles, it was an easy "today" read. I was pleasantly surprised by a nice, snuggle up under the blanket and read all day kind of book.

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  • Posted October 28, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Jennifer Wardrip - Personal Read

    Only a person with outstanding knowledge of music, music history, and 17th century Paris could write a historical saga as entertaining and totally engrossing as Ms. Dunlap's EMILIE'S VOICE. Dunlap, the Director of Development for the Connecticut Opera, holds a PhD in Music History from Yale University. Her many years of teaching, writing about, and working in the world of music and opera have lent their unique voice to this superb debut novel. <BR/><BR/>By 1675, at the royal court of Versailles a few miles outside of Paris, Louis XIV ruled with a heavy hand. Versailles had become one of his most prized courts to sit, and although he rarely visited the city of Paris itself, the noblemen, courtier's, and men of wit and wisdom that graced the halls of the court of Versailles provided him with constant entertainment. <BR/><BR/>For Emilie, a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, having the voice of an angel has brought her to the attention of renowned composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. A childhood friend of Louis XIV, Charpentier takes Emilie under his wing-determined, at all costs, to train her to become the most wonderful of courtiers at Louis' court at Versailles. But danger comes in many forms, and Charpentier's conniving schemes to keep Emilie from the control of rival Jean-Baptiste Lully, the official court composer, creates undue strain upon Emilie. And when a noblewoman hoping to usurp the king's mistress brings Emilie to court before she's ready, everyone involved has something to lose. <BR/><BR/>EMILIE'S VOICE is a wonderful, richly engaging book of power, betrayal, music, mayhem, and, above all, Emilie's wish to have control of her own life. For a girl who wants only to sing, that desire has brought more trouble than pleasure. It seems that everyone has a hidden agenda for Emilie and her angelic voice-but what of Emilie's own needs and desires?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2008

    Not What I Expected

    When I picked this book up at Barnes, I was excited to read it! It was small, so a fast read, and the description caught me. I got through it easily enough, however, there was no passion in the book. At times I found myself rereading passages to understand what had just happened. What happened to certain characters at the end? And speaking of the end...awful. I just felt it was a wasted read. Great to keep in the car and pick up while stuck in traffic or the bathroom.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2007

    A reviewer

    Only a person with outstanding knowledge of music, music history, and 17th century Paris could write a historical saga as entertaining and totally engrossing as Ms. Dunlap's EMILIE'S VOICE. Dunlap, the Director of Development for the Connecticut Opera, holds a PhD in Music History from Yale University. Her many years of teaching, writing about, and working in the world of music and opera have lent their unique voice to this superb debut novel. By 1675, at the royal court of Versailles a few miles outside of Paris, Louis XIV ruled with a heavy hand. Versailles had become one of his most prized courts to sit, and although he rarely visited the city of Paris itself, the noblemen, courtier's, and men of wit and wisdom that graced the halls of the court of Versailles provided him with constant entertainment. For Emilie, a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, having the voice of an angel has brought her to the attention of renowned composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. A childhood friend of Louis XIV, Charpentier takes Emilie under his wing-determined, at all costs, to train her to become the most wonderful of courtiers at Louis' court at Versailles. But danger comes in many forms, and Charpentier's conniving schemes to keep Emilie from the control of rival Jean-Baptiste Lully, the official court composer, creates undue strain upon Emilie. And when a noblewoman hoping to usurp the king's mistress brings Emilie to court before she's ready, everyone involved has something to lose. EMILIE'S VOICE is a wonderful, richly engaging book of power, betrayal, music, mayhem, and, above all, Emilie's wish to have control of her own life. For a girl who wants only to sing, that desire has brought more trouble than pleasure. It seems that everyone has a hidden agenda for Emilie and her angelic voice-but what of Emilie's own needs and desires?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2005

    Emilie's Voice -- A Must Read for Music Lovers

    Emilie¿s Voice is an intelligent and compelling piece of historical fiction. It contains a perfect blend: well rounded characters, an interesting moment in history, intrigue, love and sacrifice. Susanne Dunlap¿s portrayal of 17th century France is full of rich and authentic details. The politics surrounding an artist¿s success or failure during the reign of Louis XI is conveyed with a deft hand. In Emilie, the reader will discover a naïve and engaging girl of humble origins, who possesses a glorious talent. As she is used and abused for both personal and political gain, her voice-- both as an artist and an individual¿develops, reaching maturity that left me gasping at the startling conclusion of the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2005

    Enjoyable read

    Susanne Dunlap has carved out a nice niche in musical historical fiction. The characters are interesting, well motivated and more than two-dimensional. The descriptions are very visual. There are some very funny scenes. The plot really moves along and makes for a satisfying read. Plus, the book's web site has great information about the composers and music featured in the book. If you're one for soppy happy endings, this isn't for you. The author has crafted a much more clever, heart-rending and historically accurate finale, which make it all the more satisfying. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did my entire book group.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2005

    Historical humor

    Emile's voice is more than a historical novel, it is a historical farce set in an accurate historic setting. Most of the characters are emotionlly flat, there is no character development and the action is highly improbable but the humor, time honored values, and a snapshot of life in the time of Louis the XIV come shining through.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2005

    Art, power, and love collide

    This novel is a poignant story intertwining the coming of age of a poor but gifted girl, musical forces both personal and historical, and rivalry and intrigue in the court at Versaille. At center is a love story of a most delicate and ciruitous nature. The story moves at a fast pace with unexpected turns, and takes one far beyond the sordid perils of actual existence.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2005

    Take a trip to France!

    With Emilie's Voice, Dunlap takes us back in time to the corrupt opulence of Louis XIV's Versailles. With rich language and colorful descriptions, I felt as though I was traveling with Emilie on her journey from humble beginnings to her debut at court. The intrigue, scheming, and power plays enjoyed by the noble classes will keep you turning pages. And the shocking end will take your breath away!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2005

    Transporting!

    I have to confess, I work such long hours and get so little sleep that I haven't been able to read a book cover to cover in years. Emilie's Voice, however, was so delicious to read that I snuck off to bed as early as possible every night for a week to get as many chapter's in as my poor tired eyes could tolerate. I didn't want to put it down. The plot was full of wonderful intrigue, the chracters were compelling, and the descriptions of the historical settings so evocative that I felt transported to another time and place. I can't wait for the next novel by this wonderful new author!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2005

    A magical novel

    Emilie's Voice by debut author Susanne Dunlap is truly captivating and magical.I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I look forward to seeing this on the big screen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2005

    Insight to French culture

    This book provides a real insight into the culture and intrigue of pre-revolution France. The bittersweet ending adds spice to a wonderful story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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