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The Glass Blowers by Daphne du Maurier

The Glass Blowers (1963)

by Daphne du Maurier

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Loved it. I have always du maurier's books and this was no different. An excellent story of a family caught in the french revolution and how it shapes their attitudes towards life. Highly recommended for du maurier's fans. ( )
  ashkrishwrites | Aug 29, 2018 |
something missing. was it about a family in the french revolution. was it just about a family? ( )
  mahallett | Oct 20, 2015 |
Sophie Busson is the daughter of Mathurin Busson, a master glass maker in central France, and this is the story of her family, spanning nearly 100 years: starting with the year of her parents’ marriage, all through the turbulent years of the events leading up to and including the Revolution, the brief years of the Republic, until the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and his coronation as Emperor, and the restoration of the monarchy.

Based on Daphne du Maurier’s own French forebears, in the novel Sophie writes down the history of the Bussons, a family of glass blowers, for the benefit of her nephew Louis-Mathurin Busson, who grew up in England and is ignorant of his true family history. The first half of the book is not only provincial in perspective, but positively pedestrian, but du Maurier manages to create an evocative impression of rural France in the latter half of the eighteenth century, with the descriptions of the glass-blowing industry particularly vivid. Finally, in the 1780s, we can actually read about real events deserving of the name, as the political situation in France deteriorates, with riots and uprisings throughout the country, and the royal family having to make more and more concessions to the people to keep the peace. The passages detailing the riots in Paris and in Loir-et-Cher, the area where Sophie and her family live, the fear and suspicion after the fall of the ancien régime and the terror of the subsequent civil war are among the most powerful in the novel and for once shift the usual central perspective focused on Paris during those years to the provinces, where unspeakable atrocities took place that are much less known. The chapter about the Vendéans taking Le Mans, with its potent images of utter dehumanisation, will stay with me a long time; there is a still-relevant message to be found in these pages. By the end, each character had grown on me, as I had come to know all their individual stories, and I felt sorry I had to take my leave.

This will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and a lot will probably give up long before they make it to the halfway point, but there is a definite reward to be had for those who persevere. ( )
  passion4reading | Feb 2, 2015 |
Using her own family history as inspiration, Du Maurier gives us the aging Sophie Duval, who has promised her nephew that she will tell the story of their family, starting with her mother marrying into the local community of glass blowers.

The story starts with Sophie's mother getting married in the 1770s in rural France, where the glass blowers are situated beside the forests that provide the fuel for the furnaces.

Sophie herself gets married in 1788 in a joint wedding with her younger sister. It's not long before the issues building up in Paris spills out into the countryside. The storming of the Bastille and other important events is told via gossip and second hand scare mongering as panic spreads across the land, and thieves and brigands are seen in every shadow, ready to burn crops and steal wood.

Over the next few years, we see how the revolution happening in the bigger towns and cities filters down into the countryside, where neighbour can turn against neighbour and family fortunes can be made and lost by a word in the wrong place.

Sophie's family is directly affected where one brother, who gambles with his money and reputation, emigrates to England having been declared bankrupt too many times, and stakes his living (badly) with the other french emigres.

Pierre becomes a notary, Edme works first with Pierre and then Michel as local leaders in the revolution. Both men die in their old age, tired and worn out, and Edme is left to continue her fight for a revolution that has long lost it's spark. Sophie lives into her old age where her nephew (Michel's son) has become the mayor of the local town and we're back to where the story started.

The book is sub-400 pages long in this edition, so this is not an in depth detailed look at the French Revolution. du Maurier has chosen some set pieces to highlight on and there is much that is told briefly (or not at all). Therefore this is not a book for someone looking for a non-fictionalised account of the Revolution, should be seen more as a lead-in story.

This is another example of du Maurier's skill is telling historical fiction, and should be much better known than it is. ( )
  nordie | May 20, 2013 |
I found this historical fiction based on du Mauriers French ancestors at the time of the French Revolution a flat, bland, albeit well written, recitation of what happened with very little of the personal about it, or any sense of people or place. It was less than engaging, hard to care about the characters and easy to put down. Not one of Du Mauriers better efforts but having said that, even a mediocre du Maurier is better than some other author's best efforts.

Buddy read with Kim :-). ( )
1 vote jemidar | Apr 16, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maurier, Daphne duprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kretser, Michelle DeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my forbears, the master glass-blowers of la Brulonnerie, Cherigny, la Pierre and le Chesne-Bidault.
First words
One day in the June of 1844 Madame Sophie Duval, nee Busson, eighty years of age and mother of the mayor of Vibraye, a small commune in the departement of Sarthe, rose from her chair in the salon of her property at le Gue de Launay, chose her favourite walking-stick from a stand in the hall, and calling to her dog made her way, as was her custom at this hour of the afternoon every Tuesday, down the short approach drive to the entrance gate.
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Book description
Sophie Duval reveals to her long-lost nephew the tragic story of their family.

The world of the glass-blowers has its own traditions, its own language - and its own rules. 'If you marry into glass,' Pierre Labbé warns his daughter, 'you will say goodbye to everything familiar, and enter a closed world.' But crashing into this world comes the violence and terror of the French Revolution, against which the family struggle to survive.

The Glass Blowers is a remarkable achievement - an imaginative and exciting reworking of du Maurier's own family history.
Haiku summary
The story of the
French Revolution, told by
A provincial voice.

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This is Daphne Du Maurier's warm, human saga of a family of craftsmen in 18th century France - with the violence and terror of the Revolution as a clamouring background against which their loves and their hopes are played out.

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