- Paperback: 880 pages
- Publisher: Fourth Estate; Re-issue edition (4 Mar. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 000725055X
- ISBN-13: 978-0007250554
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 5.6 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 311 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Place of Greater Safety Paperback – 4 Mar 2010
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‘Superbly readable…an assured and strange masterpiece.’ Sunday Telegraph
'One of the best English novels of the 20th century.' Diana Athill, The Oldie
‘Hilary Mantel has soaked herself in the history of the period…and a striking picture emerges of the exhilaration, dynamic energy and stark horror of those fearful days.’ Daily Telegraph
‘I cannot think of a historical novel as good as this until one goes back to Marguerite Yourcenar’s “Memoirs of Hadrian”, published forty years ago.’ Evening Standard
‘Marvellous…It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Hilary Mantel captures it all.’ Time Out
‘Intriguing…She has grasped what made these young revolutionaries – and with them the French Revolution – tick.’ Independent
‘Crafty tensions, twists and high drama…a bravura display of her endlessly inventive, eerily observant style.’ Times Literary Supplement
‘An extraordinary and overwhelming novel…immensely detailed and yet fast-moving…she has set herself to capture the excitement and intellectual fervour of the period. She does it admirably…a tour de force.’ Scotsman
'Riveting…the book overflows with a natural storyteller's energy.' New Yorker
‘Much, much more than a historical novel, this is an addictive study of power, and the price that must be paid for it…a triumph.’ Cosmopolitan
'This is a high-class historical blockbuster.' Red Magazine
‘Hilary Mantel has pulled off the apparently impossible…an ambitious, gripping epic.’ Vogue
An extraordinary, epic novel set during the French Revolution, winner of the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award. A spellbinding, epic novel which recounts the events between the fall of the Ancient Regime and the peak of the Terror, as seen through the eyes of the French Revolution's three protagonists -- Georges-Jacques Danton, Maximilien Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins, men whose mix of ambition, idealism, and ego helped unleash the darker side of the Revolution's ideals and brought them eventually to their own tragic ends. Critically acclaimed upon first publication, 'A Place of Greater Safety' is one of Mantel's most celebrated works of fiction.See all Product description
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So here we are transported back to those days of the French Revolution, from its beginnings and onwards. Although we do have a few main characters there are many more that appear in this book. Mantel does tell us in her foreword that Marat although making a number of appearances here is not concentrated on too much, and for obvious reasons due to his nature taking over the whole story. Also, whenever possible the real words that have been recorded and passed down to us are used for the individual characters.
Thus, we have a very interesting read here, one where we can see the problems of France increasing, as it lacks funds and the way the country is run is chaotic. With the Third Estate called to meet so we see the thoughts and ideas of revolution starting to be discussed as many have ideas of how they see how France can be changed.
With the different characters here we see some of these ideas, and the internal troubles caused by infighting between different factions, leading to feuding and executions. And as the revolution picks up pace, so the Terror gets hold, as more and more people are taken to the guillotine, with the populace calling for blood.
A highly significant period of history is really brought to life as we read this compelling story, but please don’t expect this to be a quick read, because it is not as we have so much to take in and contemplate upon. With manipulations, deals, fraud and other deeds so the years shown here are fraught with danger and peril, as people try to navigate their way through all the troubles.
In all this makes for a very interesting, well thought out novel that is always worth reading.
Hilary Mantel’s narrative is a dizzying, polyphonic masterpiece. Rather than isolating a single character and their perspective – as she does in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy – we hear from many characters caught up in this political maelstrom, their voices rising and fading in succession, sometimes blurring into each other. While the story pivots around the relationship between Desmouslins, Dantons and Robespierre, we encounter their wives and lovers, their families, business associates and relations, aristocrats, Jacobins and Girondistes. And the text itself has an almost collage-type structure, laced with reports from newspapers and pamphlets, the prose sometimes slipping into pure dramatic dialogue. It’s a chaotic, mind-bendingly complex narrative which sometimes seems to teeter on the brink of losing its form, but Mantel keeps it all together with virtuoso skill.
The narrative is punctured by a robust wit and an eye for irony which somehow deflates our notion of these men and women as icons or emblems – and allows the reader to encounter them on a very human level. Robespierre’s belief in his own value to the revolutionary project, for example, contributes to his failure to save his childhood friend Desmoulins from the guillotine, while Danton – orator and man of the people – is revealed to be permanently on the take, determined to make his fortune and get out of the revolution while the going’s good. Ultimately, of course, it is the revolution which devours him before he can make good his escape.
What I also really appreciated about the book is how many women’s voices we hear, whether it’s the frustration of female politicians such as Anne Theroigne and Madame Roland, straining against the misogyny of male revolutionaries, or wives and lovers – Lucile Desmoulins, Louise Gély and Eleanor Duplay. So often in narratives of the revolution, these are the voices which get suppressed and it becomes male-oriented. The historical role of women has gone unacknowledged, but Mantel brings their voices to the fore, emphasising their insecurities, their own private tragedies and their political influence.
This is a novel which drops you headfirst into Paris at the end of the eighteenth century without too much of a lifeline. But if you’re prepared to take on the challenge, it’s a book which absorbs and fascinates, which prompts you to research as you’re reading, and offers a sustained and intense insight into the minds behind one of the most frightening episodes in European history. Worth not one read, but many.
The Republic will be born but maintaining the new French Republic is an endeavour that demands strict and diabolical things to be done. The guillotine begins to work overtime at an absurd rate as The Reign of Terror begins. The champions of maintaining the new and hard-won democracy will become consumed by the dreadful events. Despite good intentions to deliver the will of the downtrodden people of France.
I really enjoyed this book. It took a little while to get used to the style of presentation as we flit from various scenes concerning the main three characters. I quickly got used to this. There is a whole host of other historical figures too. It is hard to say more without accidentally putting spoilers in. So I must leave it there. Suffice to say, well worth five stars - splendid reading. (less)
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Certainly gives an immersive view of this turbulent time.