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A Place of Greater Safety

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He marries Gabrielle, a café owner’s daughter, in Paris before the Revolution, and has several children by her. I know that, in real life, there has been much speculation about Robespierre’s relationship with Eléonore Duplay and whether or not it was sexual in nature. Maximilien thought for a moment about running the brewery; very little classical education would be required.

Hij was zich vaag bewust van een gemiste afslag, zo’n vork in de weg die je je later herinnert, wanneer je eenmaal flink verdwaald bent. I came to this extremely long novel not because I had any particular interest in the French Revolution, but because I fell in love with Mantel’s writing in Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and wanted to read more of her work. During the Revolution, Danton, as well as the other two protagonists, Desmoulins and Robespierre, join the radical Jacobin faction. However, I didn’t need to, as I had no difficulty following the plot and (more or less) keeping track of who's who.I am not entirely sure why that was, but I think it might have had to do with Mantel’s unusual style, which I was not used to, and prevented me from enjoying the book very much. Throughout the book, I had to keep reminding myself that this actually happened and that Hilary Mantel had based the story on factual evidence. Even then, Robespierre feels guilt over turning against his friend Desmoulins, but in the end he chooses power over friendship.

Mantel suggests that they forced the two of them into sexual relations so that Eléonore would become pregnant and Robespierre would marry her. A Place of Greater Safety is, in my opinion, one of the three greatest novels of the French Revolution ever written, along with Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Katherine Neville’s The Eight (the parts set in the French Revolution, that is).It would be impossible to summarize the plot without making this an enormously long review, so I will just give the basics here.

Even though they do some terrible things, you never quite lose your sympathy for them, or, at least, you understand why they do what they do. It is to this grammar school that both the young de Robespierre and Desmoulins are sent in the story. He would stand in front of a mirror to scrutinize his face, to see if his teeth stuck out or if he looked timid. There are many differences, of course, the main one being that here we get to be inside, though in varying degrees, the mind of more than just one person.From schooldays on we are taught to regard Robespierre and Danton as evil incarnate, on a par with Hitler and with Stalin: Mantel brings off the not inconsiderable feat of presenting them as fully rounded human beings. Hilary Mantel was the author of the bestselling novel Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies , which both won the Booker Prize. He had a strong sympathy with the poor, which made him very popular, at first in his hometown of Arras and, later, as a deputy to the Estates General and the National Assembly at Versailles and Paris. A white curtain fluttered in the breeze from the open window, sparrows fussed on the sill; God the Father, trailing clouds of glory, looked down from a picture on the wall.

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