Daughter of the Seine is a biography (published in 1929 and honored by the Newbery committee the following year) which tells the story of Marie-Jeanne Roland de la Platière – an important figure in the French Revolution. It is an extremely detailed and surprisingly engaging story of a remarkable woman. I found myself immediately engaged by Eton’s account of Marie’s unconventional middle class childhood. While the author was clearly somewhat enamored of her subject, it’s also clear that she worked extremely hard to paint a very thorough (if somewhat romanticized) portrait. It’s not at all hard to understand how Marie rose from somewhat humble origins to her very influential position as one of the key players in the Jacobin and Girondist factions. Unfortunately, during the Reign of Terror, her visible association and power within the increasingly unpopular Girondists would be her undoing.
Even as someone who majored in history and has a pretty solid interest in the French Revolution, I admit to approaching this with some concern. And here is a case were perhaps low expectations saved the day! Although I got a bit bogged down in the middle of this 300-plus page biography, I would call it a mostly very engaging and fast paced read. It’s really not that dry – given the rather grave and complicated subject matter. And yet it is also very informative and provides a unique and human perspective on a truly fascinating era. However, I personally found it a bit overlong and I can’t help but wonder if children ever really truly loved this book and, what’s more, if many modern children would much to hold their interest. But, maybe I’m selling kids short. I could actually see this being immensely helpful with a middle school or high school research project.