The Red Necklace: A Novel of the French Revolution, by Sally Gardner (Read by Carrington MacDuffie)
Born with the ability to throw his voice and to read minds, Gypsy orphan Yann Margoza earns his living by teaming with a magician and a dwarf to perform magic acts in pre-revolutionary Paris. After a particularly impressive theater performance, Count Kalliovsky persuades them to appear at a private party to entertain guests of the the Marquis de Villeduval. Not even the ride in the elegant carriage to the opulent chateau can erase Yann's premonition that the evening would end in tragedy. He's right, and the night begins a period of murder, deception, violence, and loneliness. But it also signals the beginning of his friendship with Sido, the lame, shy, emotionally abused daughter of the Marquis.
Yann's night of terror at the Marquis' chateau is matched by the growing violence in the streets of Paris as the revolutionaries become more intolerant of the excesses of the aristocracy and the Court. Just as he's been forced to flee for safety, the French nobility start to find themselves at the mercy of their former servants. Gardner's fictional account of this bloody period of history doesn't stop at the peasants' slaughter of their masters by sword and guillotine, she adds a serial killer who leaves red garnet necklaces on the necks of his victims. Another aspect of the book that will fascinate teen (and older) listeners is Gardner's description of gypsy lore and the mystical, magical abilities she attributes to the Roma shamans.
Although this isn't exactly a bedtime story,
it's a perfect book for family listening. What a wonderful
way to learn about the French Revolution and the everyday
consequences for the people involved. Because Yann escapes
to London, Gardner has an opportunity to discuss London
society and French-English relations, too. Although
the book is rich in historical facts, it reads like
a thrilling, suspenseful mystery. The narrator, Carrington
MacDuffie contributes to the overall excellence of the
audio book with her ability to create a wide variety
of accents for the characters who come from all levels
of French and English society. This book will appeal
to listeners from age eight or nine to adult, because
of the unique story line, engaging characters and historical
significance. Highly recommended.