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5.0 out of 5 stars
An Incorruptable Portrait, 19 Jan. 2010
How easy it is to look at Maximilien Robespierre and see nothing but a monster, a mass-murderer, whose fate was well-deserved, though it perhaps came too late.
Yet there is a side to Robespierre that is usually overlooked: his human side, the Robespierre before the Revolution, the Robespierre who was, arguably, as much a victim of the Revolution as those for whose deaths he was responsible.
Ruth Scurr unravels the layers of this most fascinating of men, revealing the human being within. She discovers a man of great complexity: a man who did not believe in capital punishment, yet who spilled the blood of many. He was warm and kind to those he befriended, yet he sent his closest friends to the guillotine. He was a man who believed in justice, free speech and the rights of humankind, yet he denied these very rights to those who opposed him. He dared to preserve some spiritual influence in a country where Christianity had been banned. Known as the Incorruptible, he became everything he hated. Fatal Purity is perfectly complementary to previous studies of Robespierre, and could easily be read in conjunction with Hampson's fine book, for instance.
Dr Scurr's book is thoroughly researched and beautifully written. A real page-turner, I was sorry when it ended. I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in Robespierre, and the study of how a shy, awkward, literary and sensitive man could turn into so bloody and brutal a figure, whose name became synonymous with the Terror.