August 3, 2015

On My Bookshelf: Becoming Lisette by Rebecca Glenn

In Becoming Lisette by Rebecca Glenn, Lisette possesses all the qualities of a brilliant young painter, but is saddled with a singular disadvantage – being a woman. When Lisette's father becomes ill and quickly dies, Lisette's life changes dramatically. Lisette, however, is determined to control her own destiny. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Basic plot: When Lisette's story begins she is leaving the convent where she has, unhappily, spent her girlhood. She loves to draw and paint, but that only earns her punishment from the nuns. She is eager to return home to her parents, especially her father, also an artist. Once home, her mother is focused on turning Lisette into a proper lady, fit for marriage. Lisette is more interested in working with her father and conversing with his artist friends. She hopes that one day she will be able to sell her own paintings.

When Lisette's father becomes ill and quickly dies, Lisette's life changes dramatically. Her mother remarries, much too soon in Lisette's opinion, a controlling jeweler, Le Sèvre, who is abusive to Lisette, her mother, and his staff. Lisette hopes to study under a master painter and an admirer, a French Army officer named Amante, arranges lessons for her, but Le Sèvre finds out and ends them so that Lisette can focus on creating portraits of his customers wearing their latest jewelry purchases.

Lisette, however, is determined to control her own destiny. She continues to see Amante, visiting a salon, a gathering of people for the purpose of knowledge and amusement, and even illegally rents her own studio which she finances with the paintings she sells. Le Sèvre again usurps her plans, threatens Amante, and even has Lisette thrown in jail. In the end, Lisette manages to gain the upper hand and free herself from Le Sèvre forever.

Why I liked it: I may have mentioned this once or twice, but I love historical fiction and Becoming Lisette definitely falls in that category. The story is set in France, mostly in 1772 and 1773. Marie Antoinette and Louis the 14th are not yet queen and king, and the American and French Revolution have not yet occurred. Everyone is living a life of opulence and you get a peek into the royal lives.

Lisette is also a strong female character. She is an independent, strong-willed young woman, especially for her time period. She does not let others determine her fate and is always working to get what she wants.

And did I mention that this is the first book in a trilogy? That means two more good ones comes after this.

Classroom application:
Becoming Lisette could be used as a fiction pairing in a history course, in a unit on Europe in the 18th century or the role of women in history, or a women's studies class.

In the ELA classroom, the novel could be used as a choice during literature circles focused on the genre of historical fiction or coming of age stories. Becoming Lisette could also be used as a mentor text as students complete research and write their own historical fiction piece. You can read more about blending narrative and research here.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Becoming Lisette for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This is a sponsored post. I received this product for free in exchange for a review, but all opinions are my own.

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