Finding Emilie is a precious gem. I say this because rarely do I fall this much in love with a novel that is not totally the ‘true’ history. Laurel Corona’s book has added to the history by writing a story about ‘what might have been’ and created a novel that captivated me in all of its beauty and prose.
Based on the lives of both Emilie du Chatelet (Voltaire’s love) and (mostly) her daughter, Stanislas-Adelaide; known as Lili- the story takes you into the pre-Revolution time of the 18th c. This was a time in France where women were not supposed to dabble in the sciences and other ‘higher’ learning subjects-let alone write.
Emilie’s death a few days after giving birth results in Lili being raised by Julie de Bercy (Emilie’s close friend). Julie's daughter, Delphine and Lili are raised like sisters. Lili however presents herself as quite trying and out of the ordinary in terms of all her questioning at the convent where she and Delphine were schooled.
Lili finds herself intrigued by her defunct mother and wants to find out more about her. Knowing that she resembles her not only physically, but also in spirit, Lili desperately wants answers for her own life through ‘finding Emilie’. This becomes a difficult task since her aunt is reluctant in sharing anything about Emilie’s remarkable life (she was the one who actually re-wrote Newton's work! Anonimously...one can only imagine how deep her understanding and knowledge of the material stretched)- But Lili is adamant about finding out the truth about her mother.
Unlike her despicable aunt, Julie is a constant and wonderful support for Lili as she blossoms into a great philosophical writer and lover of science. Lili does publish her work, but because this was a time where women’s brains were not something deserving of praise or recognition, she does this under a pen name.
I love that the author put this twist in history and added Lili’s life into it to give closure to what could have been a continuation to Emilie’s life. I almost bet you Emilie would have expected nothing less of this remarkably strong and intelligent daughter!
Bravo Laurel Corona!
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