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As 19th-century novelists Alexandre Dumas and Charles Dickens both discovered, the French Revolution makes for great drama. This lesson has not been lost on Hilary Mantel, whose A Place of Greater Safety brings a 20th-century sensibility to the stirring events of 1789. Mantel's approach is nothing if not ambitious: her three main characters, Georges-Jacques Danton, Maximilien Robespierre, and Camille Desmoulins, happen to have been major players in the early days of the revolution--men whose mix of ambition, idealism, and ego helped unleash the Terror and brought them eventually to their own tragic ends. As Mantel points out in her forward, none of these men was famous before the revolution; thus not a great deal is known about their early lives. What would constrain the biographer, however, is an open invitation to the fiction writer to let the imagination run wild; thus Mantel freely extrapolates from what is known of her protagonists' personalities and relationships with each other to construct their pasts.
This is a huge, complex novel, but the author has done her homework. Though Danton, Robespierre, and Desmoulins are at the center of her story, they are by no means the only major characters who populate the novel. Mantel uses historical figures as well as fictional ones to provide different points of view on the story. As she moves from one to the next, her narrative voice changes back and forth from first to third person as she sometimes grants us access to her characters' deepest thoughts and feelings, and other times keeps us guessing. A Place of Greater Safety is a happy marriage of literary and historical fiction, and a bona fide page-turner, as well. --Margaret Prior --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"History is fiction," Robespierre observes at one point during British writer Mantel's monumental fictive account of the French Revolution, her first work to appear in this country. In her hands, it is a spellbinding read. Mantel recounts the events between the fall of the ancien regime and the peak of the Terror as seen through the eyes of the three protagonists--Robespierre, Danton and Desmoulins--and a huge cast of supporting characters (including brief appearances by the scrofulous Marat). The three revolutionaries, longtime acquaintances, spend their days scheming and fighting for a corruption-free French Republic, but their definitions of "corrupt" are as different as the men themselves. Robespierre is the fulcrum. Rigidly puritanical, he is able to strike terror into the most stalwart of hearts, and his implacable progress towards his goal makes him the most formidable figure of the age. As the lusty, likable and ultimately more democratic Danton observes, it is impossible to hurt anyone who enjoys nothing. The feckless, charming Camille Desmoulins, loved by all but respected by few, dances between the two, writing incendiary articles to keep the flames of revolt alive. Mantel makes use of diaries, letters, transcripts and her own creative imagination to create vivid portraits of the three men, their families, friends and the character of their everyday lives. Her gift is such that we hang on to every word, following bewildering arguments and Byzantine subplots with eager anticipation. This is historical fiction of the first order. History Book Club, QPB and BOMC alternates.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
I was told by my friend it has too many people but Hilary Mantel is very good writer and the long wintry snowed in days will win . Venn diagrams-flow-charts, who is who,etc. Read morePublished 1 month ago by andrew somogyi
I really enjoyed reading this book despite its very dense prose. There is just so much detail and the number of characters is huge. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Steve in Ottawa
Well written, but I was so disappointed that after two attempts, could not get into it. This is particularly unfortunate since I devoured Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.Published 13 months ago by Cheryl Wilson
What a dense and interesting book. I have learned so much. Want to read more about the French Revolution now.Published on Nov. 14 2013 by Jean Clegg
My mistake was, after my enthusiastic reading of Wolf Hall, to order both Bring up the Bodies and A Place of Greater Safety. Read morePublished on June 4 2013 by Pop Powl
The copy of "A Place of Greater Safety" that I purchased was described as "used", but was much more dog-eared than I had expected. Read morePublished on Jan. 20 2013 by David Matthews
As the revolutionaries develop their society, the events they set in motion and the ideas they espouse set off a serious of violent events that will ultimately devour them. Read morePublished on April 13 2011 by Rodge
I have just finished this book, so all of my retrospective observations are still a bit shaky. That said, I cannot yet criticize this novel successfully from any angle. Read morePublished on June 4 2004 by EL