26 March 2014

A Place of Greater Safety

Author: Hilary Mantel
Year: 1992
Pages: 880
Time It Took To Read: Over a week - it's MEATY

I've been swamped, literally swamped, with uni work since Christmas. If I'm not ignoring one module to concentrate on a TMA, I'm doing the reverse. This book was a treat for getting my January essays in on time, but I didn't start reading it til last week.

Oh my God, you guys, she needs to crack on with the last Cromwell book.

Anyway, prior to reading this book, I knew absolutely nothing about the French Revolution. I studied it briefly in year 9, but spent more time sniggering about people having to sleep in the corpse of their horse. I was a heartless child. I knew that a lot of people got their head cut off, and that it was probably ultimately not a terrible thing, but no details.
Well, now I feel like I lived through it. That's the power of Mantel's writing; one sentence and you're there. One line, one tiny piece of description and the scene is set. I think, as with her Cromwell books, it's a lot better to read if you already have a fair idea of who's who and what actually happened.
It portrays the lives of Maximilien Robespierre, Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins, three leading revolutionaries who began as lawyers. Their love, their pain, their hate, aggression, anger, humour is all in the book. They become three dimensional, but oddly inscrutable. Their women are as important as the men, acting as a domestic balance to their almost fantastical political world, but also involved in it.
As the book drives on through death, factions, more death, insurrection, and death, you KNOW people that have been fully developed are going to die. As I couldn't remember the facts of the Revolution, I didn't know til the very end who died in what order. The last forty pages were compulsive.
It's brilliant. I am sad that I've finished it.

Book count: 6/50

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