A Place of Greater Safety
June 16, 2020 9:51 PM - by Mantel, Hilary - Subscribe

Capturing the violence, tragedy, history, and drama of the French Revolution, this novel focuses on the families and loves of three men who led the Revolution--Danton, the charismatic leader and orator; Robespierre, the cold rationalist; and Desmoulins, the rabble-rouser.
posted by Chrysostom (9 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed this, btw.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:28 PM on June 17, 2020

I loved the first fifty pages of this, then got annoyed by reading it on tablet and never got around to buying a physical copy, which is something I really should rectify.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:29 PM on June 17, 2020

SPOILERS: Things go poorly for Louis XVIII.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:36 PM on June 17, 2020


I love Wolf Hall. I love Mantel's style, and her care for voice and accuracy. I was so excited to get my hands on this book, to devour it.

Well... To try to devour it.

I couldn't follow the plot. I got absolutely no sense of character or personality. I couldn't keep track of the action. I was, over and over again, completely at a loss. I have no sense of what this book is--what it's about, what it was supposed to make me feel, what I should have gotten from it.

I just... I just don't understand. And I'm not dumb, you know?

Like I said, I loved Wolf Hall. And I would love it if some kind soul in this thread could explain this book to me, so that perhaps the confounding experience of reading it may stop haunting me.
posted by meese at 6:14 PM on June 17, 2020

I loved this book! I think this book is for people who have a better handle on the history, and want to explore the character and mindset of the main players.

It helped that I got a primer on the French Revolutions from Mike Duncan's podcast before I read this book. There's a lot of details and references that would have flown by me if I didn't know the play-by-play breakdown beforehand.

I appreciate that she doesn't over-explain things, it makes the narrative flow more naturally.

Her characterizations of Danton, Desmoulins and Robespierre are exactly what I pictured in my head!
posted by ishmael at 6:23 PM on June 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Meese, I would check out Duncan's podcast first and see if it helps the book read easier. I can imagine trying to juggle the cast of characters, while at the same time parsing the history and the character motivations would be tiresome.
posted by ishmael at 6:27 PM on June 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

As an ex-early modernist, I didn't find it that hard to follow, but (IIRC, it's been a while) there are a number of dropped threads and narrative peterings-out that I can readily believe would add to the confusion. Because Mantel is a stickler for the actual known events (while being free in her interpolations of subjectivity), sometimes she can't coax the material into a satisfying narrative.
posted by praemunire at 7:57 PM on June 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was pretty familiar with the French Revolution, so I didn't pick up on how that could be tricky, good point.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:06 PM on June 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I knew very little about any of the people in this book going in, and I would say I still don't know very much about the Revolution, but I loved this book. I recommend it and Mantel's other books pretty regularly on Ask.

meese, maybe I just enjoyed being confounded? I found it a pleasurable read and did not worry too much about getting every nuance. That's what re-reads are for.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:59 AM on June 22, 2020

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