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A Place of Greater Safety: A Novel Paperback – Nov 14 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (Nov. 14 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312426399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312426392
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 3.7 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #7,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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.

From Publishers Weekly

"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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I first read this book when I was a senior in high school ten years ago. I was really interested in the French Revolution and all the personalities involved. This book was a beautifully written, sensitive and accurate portrait of the tragic figures of the Revolution. She knew things about Robespierre I thought only I knew that I had read in dusty old volumes you can't even get access to anymore. I remember in the forward she says "if it seems too unlikely to be true it probably is", and that's definitely the case. It was a very touching book and really brilliant in a number of ways. Mantel really understands the eighteenth-century mind better than most authors I've read. Now I'm getting my Ph.D. in history and looking into that period in even more depth! Get this book even if you aren't a history buff, though. It's a great read even if you don't know the first thing about history.
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Mantel first impressed me with her vivid characterization of an historical figure in "Wolf Hall", so, when I read up on some of her earlier works, "A Place of Greater Safety" seemed right up her alley. Focusing on three major players in the days leading up to the French Revolution--Desmoulins, Danton and Robespierre--Mantel brought that ability she showed in "Wolf Hall" (that attracted the Man-Booker Prize jurors) to bear almost as well in this much earlier novel: she seems to see into and through the eyes of the personalities of characters who remain for most of us flat and factual, dates, speeches and actions only. I've taught "A Tale of Two Cities" any number of times and Dickens does bring fictitious players of the same era to life. But though I've read significant background to prepare for that teaching, it never occurred to me to imagine how and why Desmoulins stood on the tavern table one significant day. And though the movie "Danton" with Gerard Depardieu gave us a somewhat glorified glimpse into the final and public days of the breakdown of the relationship between that important figure of the Revolution and Robespierre, Mantel, by shifting 3rd-person narration between the three (and extending it to wives, lovers, cuckolded husbands etc.), shows us how three almost-ordinary men found themselves, step-by-small-step, at the centre of something extraordinary and beyond their control.

She says herself that she allows herself the fiction writer's liberties after she has absorbed the facts: she fleshes out the bones with details of muscle and blood that history does not tell us. And she does so so well--as with Thomas Cromwell--because she is a sensitive observer of the human mind and heart.
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Format: Paperback
Mantel's very absorbing novel is good for two reasons. First, it evokes an excellent sense of time, of place, and of events, during the French Revolution. Possibly more than any historical work about the events of the Revolution, this novel captures the true zeitgeist of the times. Second, and closely linked to the first reason, is the author's vivid depiction of three characters - Danton, Robespierre and Desmoulins - as living, breathing, sinning creatures. Above all is the author's suggestion of the randomness of events, what we now proclaim History. Revolutions produce upheaval: they displace, promote or overthrow people. And as in life, the author ultimately suggests, we all seek that one thing: a place of greater safety. This book verges on an imperfect brilliance.
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Format: Paperback
Recognizing that it took Mantel a painfully long time to bring this book to publication, I am glad she eventually prevailed. Her inaugural work of historical fiction is definitely a winner in so many ways, paving the road to her ultimate success as an internationally acclaimed novelist with two subsequent excellent works. To start things off, she has chosen the French Revolution - one of those most dramatic and baffling periods in modern times - as her subject. While there is a lot of material available to aspiring authors on this most calamitous of times, she has chosen to view it through a different prism than is traditionally available to historians: personalities rather than ideas in collision. On this score, she has plenty to work with within the traditional ranks of the old regime versus the republican cause, but has chosen instead to take the more difficult course and look at three seeming allies within the latter movement. From the individual lives of fellow revolutionaries Danton, Robespierre, and Desmoulins, she weaves a fascinating tale of intrigue, dare, innovation and treachery emerging from relationships borne out of a desire for revolutionary change. All three of these exceptional men came from provincial backgrounds that did not seem to appreciate the potential abilities in oratory, writing, and reasoning to change the world for the better. As Mantel's story progresses, these three young men move to Paris to seek professional careers in a place that lives and breathes humanity. Invariably, Paris, in all its appealing glory and deplorable ugliness, will turn them and their kind into passionate and ruthless revolutionaries who will learn to kill on principle alone.Read more ›
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