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Illumination [Hardcover]

Matthew Plampin
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
Price: 10.27 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 Jan 2013

A powerful story of revolution, love and intense rivalry set in 1870 during the four-month siege of Paris.

1870. All over Paris the lights are going out. The Prussians are encircling the city and Europe’s capital of decadent pleasure and luxury is becoming a prison, its citizens caught between defiance and despair. Desperate times lie ahead as the worst winter for decades sets in and starvation looms.

One man seems to shine like a beacon in the shadows. Jean-Jacques Allix promises to be the leader the people need, to save the city itself. Painter Hannah Pardy, his young English lover, believes in him utterly; taking up arms for his cause, she is drawn into the heart of the battle for Paris. But as the darkness and panic spreads it is harder and harder to see things as they really are, and Hannah struggles to separate love from self-interest and revolutionaries from traitors.

Faced with impossible decisions, Hannah must confront the devastating reality of her beloved Paris to establish what truly matters to her – and what she will do to protect it.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (3 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007479085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007479085
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 15.6 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 601,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description



'A fascinating novel that brings to life an extraordinary historical episode . . . I can't wait to see where Matthew Plampin goes next' Andrew Taylor, author of THE AMERICAN BOY

'Fascinating . . . Matthew Plampin lights up a murky episode of French history' Liza Picard, author of VICTORIAN LONDON

Praise for Matthew Plampin’s novels:

‘A galloping good story’ THE TIMES

‘Lust, avarice, envy, revenge all play their part in this brilliantly told, well-paced story’ DAILY MAIL

‘Plampin’s historical research is impressive, as is his command of detail … his true gift of descriptive power’ INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

About the Author

Matthew Plampin was born in 1975 and lives in London. He completed a PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art and now lectures on nineteenth-century art and architecture. He is the author of two previous novels, The Street Philosopher and The Devil’s Acre.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plampin`s siege of Paris. 13 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Having read Matthew Plampin`s impressive debut novel, "The Street Philosopher" set in the Crimean war and post-war Manchester, I rather expected that this would be a novel I`d enjoy.

Plampin has a nice approach to his historical novels in that he manages to create believable characters and retain a feel for spoken dialogue of the period without either sounding too modern or stodgily Victorian; his main characters here are the Pardys; Hannah, a budding painter who's run away to Paris to escape her mother Elizabeth - a faded literary doyen - who in turn is lured to the city by a mysterious letter expressing concern for the well-being of her runaway daughter. Hannah's dissolute and somewhat nave twin brother Clement makes up this dysfunctional family who meet up just in time to be trapped in the city as the Prussian siege gets underway.
Plampin plays rather loosely with historical facts, but the novel is fast-paced and exciting with elements of wry humour - the fish-out-of-water role played by Clement as he is seduced by the feisty and lascivious Laure, then is drawn into the serious business of military ballooning is almost played light-heartedly. Plampin, However, does not neglect the politics and intrigue surrounding the period; what could easily have been something of a romp is underpinned by a good realisation of the times and events, albeit seen from his character's points of view. His other characters, the French revolutionaries, soldiers, artists, et al are equally well-drawn creations.

I enjoyed this novel a great deal, it's very readable, intelligently realised and offers a fair historical backdrop to its storyline; a solid entertaining read that I`m pleased to recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fun pageturner, but c'est n'est pas Les Mis. 16 Feb 2013
By Annabel Gaskell VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Given the love of all things French and 19th century at the moment thanks to Les Mis, it was a good time to read Illumination which is set later, during the Siege of Paris of 1870-71 in the Franco-Prussian War. It chronicles the siege through the story of the Pardy family - Engish ex-pats trapped in the city of light.

The novel starts in England with Hannah running away to Paris from her overbearing mother Elizabeth to be a painter. There she meets and falls for Jean-Jacques Allix, a revolutionary who wants the Parisians to fight back. No sooner is she settled in Paris, than her mother arrives with her twin brother Clement in tow, lured by an anonymous letter saying than Hannah is in trouble. The scene is thus set for a novel of adventure, romance, intrigue and war. Allix, clad in black is an irresistible leader, but not everyone believes in him - the balloonist Besson, whom Clement befriends, is one. All three of the Pardy family get stuck into the siege: Hannah through Allix, Clement through the balloonist and falling for the cocotte Laure; Elizabeth, an author and journalist undertakes to advance the cause of the revolutionaries through writing for the Paris newspapers.

Although full of history, some of the details seemed to have been thrown in to tick the boxes to ensure that nothing major had been omitted. The digressions into ballooning made the middle somewhat flabby and at 400 pages, . I enjoyed the evolution of Clement from bored young man to adventurer and lover, whereas his twin Hannah was rather brittle. Elizabeth, for all her faults which are many, just sailed through the siege with considerable sangfroid. This was a pageturner of a novel that wears its history lightly, concentrating on the characters and I enjoyed it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illumination 29 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This novel begins in London in 1868, with a misunderstanding between Hannah Pardy and her mother Elizabeth, which leads to Hannah setting out for Paris to make her own way in life as an artist. Moving on, it is 1870 and Elizabeth Pardy and Hannah's twin brother, Clement, head for Paris at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. They have received a letter saying that Hannah is destitute and trapped in the city as war approaches and the Prussians besiege Paris. However, when they do finally track Hannah down, they find she is poor, but certainly not destitute, and, what is more, has no intention of leaving. With her lover, the revolutionary Jean-Jacques Allix, she has worked hard to be accepted as the member of the community and her new life is there. However, Elizabeth and Clement find themselves truly in a city under siege and are unable to leave, with or without Hannah.

Although this novel is set in the siege of Paris, with revolution in the air, a side story about the use of aerial balloons in warfare, spies and intrigue, much of it is about the characters involved. I adored Elizabeth Pardy, who drives Hannah to exasperation, but always seems to fall on her feet. A writer whose fame is behind her, she is never one to pass up an opportunity and soon infiltrates Hannah's life - becoming her lovers champion in the press. Clement falls under the spell of a young cocotte, who seduces him, and is hopelessly out of his depth in the coming troubles. As starvation and war descends on the inhabitants of the city, the Pardy family must decide where their loyalties lie. Who wanted Elizabeth and Clement to come to Paris by writing the letter which lured them to the city? What will become of them when the war is over? Great characters that you care about, an interesting setting and a fast moving plot make this a very enjoyable read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A well-plotted novel on the siege of Paris, during the Franco-Prussian...
I have followed Matthew Plampin since his excellent first novel,'The Street Philosopher,' which is about corruption in the
Crimean War. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Rosie Randolph
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing in several ways
September 1870: Hannah Pardy has been living in Paris, pursuing her artistic ambitions away from her domineering mother Elizabeth. Read more
Published 6 months ago by elkiedee
4.0 out of 5 stars Paris Illuminated
Set during the siege of Paris in 1870 this story follows self-proclaimed people's leader Jean-Jacques Allix and Hannah Pardy, his young English lover. Read more
Published 9 months ago by P. Stokes
4.0 out of 5 stars Arnold Bennett meets Edward Rutherfurd
Imagine Arnold Bennett's Old Wives' Tale, retold by a more modern, zingier, less conscious writer.

At times, Plampin indulges in the kind of lazy, revisionist history... Read more
Published 9 months ago by El Loro
1.0 out of 5 stars A struggle I gave up on
I was entranced by the cover, and I am an ardent reader of novels set in other countries and cultures........ Read more
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars 60 Watt bulb
Another reviewer here has used the word 'undemanding' and I think that's about right. A perfectly entertaining romp through what for us Brits is probably a little known period of... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Northern wit
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly dull
A beautiful cover and interesting-sounding premise (British family trapped in the 1870/71 siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War) and characters (artists, communards, spies... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Bookwoman
4.0 out of 5 stars turning into a fan boy
I really am turning into a bit of a fan boy when it comes to the books of Matthew Plampin. It's a tad unbecoming at my age, but I loved The Street Philosopher, cared deeply for... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mr. H
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Story Line
This story focuses on the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. It begins with the reaction of the citizens of Paris to the ongoing defeats of the French forces and the steady advance of... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Brett H
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Read
I very much enjoyed reading Illumination. The story is set during the little-known siege of Paris and follows the adventures of a displaced British family, the Pardys, as they find... Read more
Published 14 months ago by MC Rogerson
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