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Emilie's Voice

A Novel

About The Book

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.

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?

About 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.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Touchstone (April 5, 2005)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743265065

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