Top critical review
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Irreverent, Interesting, Informative, Incomplete
on 6 January 2013
This is a fun book, a humourous history of the French Revolution as told by a socialist comedian.
Mark Steel wears his political affiliations on his sleeve, and so it is no surprise that he is firmly on the side of 'the people' in the story of the French Revolution. He is polemical, biased and prone to digression the whole way through the book, but that doesn't detract from the story one bit. It's a fun read, and also informative throughout.
I actually read it as a first introduction to the French Revolution, as it isn't a period I am entirely familiar with. I rather think I'd have been better off reading a more traditional telling of the Revolution beforehand, and then reading this as a counterpoint. For every detail Steel goes into, there feels like there is probably an awful lot left out. That is hardly surprising, seeing as it covers the entire period from the marriage of Louis XVI to Marie Antoinette through to Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in little over 270 pages.
It's not a serious book and it doesn't pretend to be, but anyone looking for a light-hearted intoduction to the French Revolution could do a lot worse than read this book. If they're anything like me, however, they'll want to read a more thorough history afterwards.