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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plampin`s siege of Paris.
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...
Published 21 months ago by J. Mcdonald

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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.
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...
Published 19 months ago by Annabel Gaskell


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plampin`s siege of Paris., 13 Dec 2012
By 
J. Mcdonald "Yelochre" (Glasgow, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Illumination (Hardcover)
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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 "gaskella2" (Nr Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Illumination (Hardcover)
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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
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Illumination (Hardcover)
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Siege of Paris, 24 Nov 2012
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Illumination (Hardcover)
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The Franco - Prussian War, it is 1870-1871, and Paris is under siege. Hannah Pardy has escaped her mother Elizabeth, and her machinations, setting herself up painting in Paris. Elizabeth has received an anonymous letter in London though, which seems to show that Hannah is in danger and needs her mother. With Hannah's twin brother Clement in tow they make their way to Paris. Tracking Hannah down it becomes obvious that she doesn't need them, and now as the siege takes place the Pardy family find themselves all trapped in Paris.

Clement finds excitement in the city with the drinking dens, women and drugs, whilst Elizabeth is tempted to re-establish her old fame as a writer. Meanwhile Hannah has cut back on painting to support the locals and her lover, Jean-Jacques Allix. As the citizens enter a period of starvation and rival factions vie to be the ultimate victors of Paris' salvation it seems as if the Pardy's have all found a certain niche. But as things grow more and more desperate and Jean-Jacques acquires the nickname 'The Leopard' due to his exploits, an unpleasant truth is exposed. With lies and rumours flying around, Clement finds that he has some growing up to do, and Hannah has to query who her friends really are.

This is fast paced and action packed, with an element of mystery especially around who sent the anonymous letter and also an adventure element. I hesitate to use the word thriller because that sets up certain connotations in people's minds, whereas adventure as thrillers used to fall into seems to be more apt for this tale. This is quite a quick read due to its being so fast paced, and there is even an option for the author to write a second volume about what happens after. If you like good old fashioned stories that rip along and are thoroughly enjoyable then you can't really go wrong with this. The actual siege of Paris is used more as a backdrop to this tale and the main characters, so if you are looking for a more detailed type story about the siege then this may not really be what you are after.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars turning into a fan boy, 26 Jun 2013
By 
Mr. H "Mr H" (Embra) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Illumination (Hardcover)
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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 The Devil's Acre, and now I have to find a place in my heart for Illumination. This is set during the four-month siege of Paris in 1870 and sees Jean-Jacques Allix setting himself up as the peoples leader. His young English lover, Hannah Pardy, believes in him whole heartedly but as the story develops, are things as they seem?

It's a well told and exciting tale, even if Hannah is a bit too sappy for her own good. After all, she has taken herself off to a foreigh country to paint, which was adventurous for her time, so there is no need for her to be so weak. But the other characters engage well and it is, that finest of things, a book you don't want to put down. So there's another space reserved on the book shelves for the next one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Story Line, 14 Jun 2013
By 
Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Illumination (Hardcover)
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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 the Prussian troops on Paris. The workers of Paris believe they can defeat the Prussians and use their victory to establish a commune and helping whip up emotions is the successful soldier, Jean-Jacques Allix.

Thrown into the melee is an English family, the Pardys. Hannah, an artist, fled to Paris some time before the war began and her mother, Elizabeth and her brother, Clement, received an anonymous note in London which indicates that she needs rescuing before the war reaches Paris. By the time they locate Hannah and find she has become Allix's lover, it is too late for them to leave before the siege begins.

This novel faithfully details the privations of the siege and its effect on the Pardys and the citizens of Paris as supplies run low and people are reduced to eating the animals from the zoo. The story marches towards its inevitable conclusion of defeat and betrayal with just a possible hint of love and romance.

This tale takes a bit of getting into. I found the start rather slow and a little dull. However, it is largely worth the perseverance as its an interesting story line and some of the details of the siege are well written. Certain characters are, perhaps, drawn a little larger than life but the detailing of the first aerostier (balloon) and its use in warfare is fascinating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Read, 13 Jun 2013
By 
MC Rogerson "MCR" (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Illumination (Hardcover)
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 themselves imprisoned in the dying city. The characters are all well-drawn, especially the bumbling brother, Clem, who constantly tries to better himself with calamitous results.

Plampin brings the setting and period to life in great detail. I particularly liked the descriptions of hedonistic Montmartre, and the offset of the burgeoning Impressionist movement against the Prussian assault. There are enough layers to bring light and shade to the central plot, which revolves around the mysterious revolutionary Jean-Jacques Allix.

In all, a nice balance of story, character and historical reference. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Siege of Paris, 1 Jun 2013
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Illumination (Hardcover)
Every so often you find an author whose works leave you filled with the spirit of their book; you are left thinking, long after you have turned the last page, of the story. This is one of those books.

I admit I knew little, prior to picking up this book, about the Siege of Paris as part of the last stages of the Franco-Prussian War. As the Prussian forces pick off the French strongholds one by one, and move to encircle Paris in a military grip, the Parisians themselves are tearing France apart - those socialists who want the temporary government removed, those who want to join the French forces to fight the enemy without first, and those, French and foreign, who just want to get out of Paris with their lives.

This begins as a story, not so much about people singular, but about people en masse - and the hero(ine) of the book is the city of Paris itself - in this book, it's like a small anthill with swams of people, all with their own agendas and purposes, squabbling disjointedly while their fate looms up on them from outside their own circumscribed walls. And then, as the immediacy of battle, death and potential defeat begin to be realised, the individuals in that anthill begin to show themselves in their true colours.

This is a brilliant book; the action, the characters, the colours, the horror of the seige, the life that was, so barely, lived. This is all dragged across the page in front of the reader in brutal honest colour. This is great stuff; a story about a period in history, brought to life, and peopled with real characters. Totally utterly recommended. I will be looking for more of the author's works to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Yarn, 28 May 2013
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This review is from: Illumination (Kindle Edition)
It is 1870. Paris is under siege as the Franco-Prussian war draws to a disastrous end. The author references real events and characters; he also tries to give a flavour of what life was like as the siege started to bite. The author, however, has only contempt for the communards, Montmartre and the reds. English people play rather a large part in this tale, certainly out of proportion to their place in the history of the debacle. This is not Hilary Mantel, rather the Scarlet Pimpernel. Nonetheless, truth be told, once it got going I found this a good adventure story. The main players were quite appealing, particularly Clement, nice but somewhat dim, who, accompanied by his manipulative mother, Elizabeth, comes to Paris to "rescue" his twin sister, Hannah, an aspiring artist in the new "natural" style. There is a "tart with a heart" in the guise of artists' model Laure, who lures the bashful Clement with her innovative charm. They find themselves stranded as the Prussians close the net. Excitement and escapades follow involving spies, balloonists, battles and betrayals. Our heroes and heroines come close to death and disaster. And in the end - well that is for the reader to find out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Constant urgency., 7 May 2013
By 
Prof TBun (Birmingham UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Illumination (Hardcover)
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I choose this book, because the plot is set during an important element of European history that I had yet to make a close study of.

It is slightly disappointing that Plampin does not preface his story with some background to the 1870 Franco-Prussian war. In brief, France was concerned about Bismark's unification of Germany being extended to include the Southern States and disputed parts of Alsace. Napoleon III declared war, pitting his experienced troops against the larger German army of inferior conscripts. The French Emperor had underestimated the advantage given to the Germans by their modern artillery and superior logistical organisation. Himself captured Napoleon's regime immediately lost power to a socialist coup in Paris. Surprisingly the New French republic refused Bismark's modest demands for a peace settlement, forcing the German Command into seeking a final decisive action. This action was to be the seige of Paris. With the former Imperial French army in disarray, rumours were spread that the German's had genocidal intentions in order to encourage enlistment to the defense of the new republic.

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The once pestigious English Pardy family are experiencing hard times, their fortune having dwindled to an embarrassing level. Daughter Hannah is frustrated by the lack of opportunity as a female artist and her mother Elizabeth's attempts to exploit her. She moves to Paris to pursue her painting.

Later as the Germans prepare to encircle Paris, Mother Eliabeth and twin brother Clement receive a desperate letter asking for help. They arrive in Paris just as the Prussian trap is about to shut, but Hannah is not at home.

Many of the characters and scenes in this drama are historical and romantic stereotypes, but they are combined together in such a well scripted way that there is never a dull moment. I liked that the characters are quite normal in their conflicting attitudes and that they would compromise to cope with their weaknesses.

Each scene has a good balance of description, mystery and anticiptation.

Those who whose taste does not extend beyond high brow literature are going to be disappointed that the story isn't darker, but I think that most readers will have more fun than they expect.
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Illumination
Illumination by Matthew Plampin (Hardcover - 3 Jan 2013)
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