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A Place of Greater Safety: A Novel (original 1992; edition 2006)

by Hilary Mantel

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1,030438,227 (4.08)418
Member:thiscatsabroad
Title:A Place of Greater Safety: A Novel
Authors:Hilary Mantel
Info:Picador (2006), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 768 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

Work details

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel (1992)

  1. 11
    Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo (bibliothequaire, rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: Hugo and Mantel both create fiction: Hugo's is closer to the passions of the time and more philosphical, involving largely fictional character; Mantel's more distanced and historical. Hugo's novel deals with the counter-revolution in the Vendée, with a detour to Paris; Mantel's with the leaders of the revolution in Paris.… (more)
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English (42)  Dutch (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
I came to this book knowing very little about the French Revolution and by the end I was kind of obsessed with it. The description and characters are so vivid and the confusion and madness of Paris during the revolution is captured wonderfully. The main characters (Danton, Robespierre and Desmoulins) are complex characters and my opinion of each of them evolved during reading. There are some excellent, interesting female characters too. The writing is clear, witty, descriptive, informative. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Apr 16, 2016 |
A labor of love. The last half of this book drug and was challenging to follow, until the very end. I can see how Hilary Mantel has really grown as an author, but the magic dialogue and characterization are definitely pure Hilary Mantel and make it worth the labor. I thought I knew a lot about the French Revolution, but I didn't know anything about Danton and Camille. These characters were so alive they were practically there in front of me. (What loud lawyer does Mantel live with?) The ending -you know what is coming - was superb. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
It is 1789, and three young provincials have come to Paris to make their way. Georges-Jacques Danton, an ambitious young lawyer, is energetic, pragmatic, debt-ridden--and hugely but erotically ugly. Maximilien Robespierre, also a lawyer, is slight, diligent, and terrified of violence.
  waltonlibrary | Jan 27, 2016 |
The French Revolution began in 1789, lasted nearly a decade, and had far-reaching impact in France and beyond. The revolution established a republic, overthrowing the long-standing monarchy and resulting in the execution of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. In A Place of Greater Safety Hilary Mantel took on the challenge of bringing this period of history to life through three key figures: Camille Desmoulins, George-Jacques Danton, and Maximilien Robespierre. I will not attempt to summarize or interpret events here; instead, I refer anyone interested to this concise summary of the French Revolution.

Mantel begins with childhood portraits of Desmoulins, Danton, and Robespierre, and describes the social classes as well as government policy in the pre-revolution era. As the three men come of age their paths converge in Paris, with Danton and Robespierre serving as influential political leaders and their friend Camille as a journalist. The men lead seemingly normal lives, with wives and mistresses and children and books and parties. Their careers follow the arc of the revolution. Initial victories increase their power, and they are on hand to witness the dawning of a new era:
Camille thinks of what Marat said: either we control it ourselves or it happens outside and beyond our control. It seems, as the unspeakable news comes in, hour by hour, that we have got the worst of both worlds. We will never, now, know an hour free from guilt; we will never, now, recover such reputation as we possessed; yet we neither planned nor willed the whole of it, the half of it. We simply turned away, we washed our hands, we made a list and we followed an agenda, we went home to sleep while the people did their worst and the people (Camille thinks) were translated from heroes to scavengers, to savages, to cannibals.

Eventually, however, other factions begin to exert greater influence. The revolution turns radical, the guillotine is invented, executions become far too common, and the protagonists fight for their lives.

This book was originally published in 2006, about 4 years before Mantel's prize-winning Thomas Cromwell novels, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. At 868 pages, it is a chunkster of the highest order and takes dedication and focus. I couldn't help wondering if A Place of Greater Safety would have been better published in two parts, Still, readers will see signs of the brilliance in Mantel's later work, such as her skill at turning historic figures into real people with strengths, weaknesses, and feelings. This book is well worth the investment, as long as you are prepared to make it. ( )
5 vote lauralkeet | Dec 30, 2015 |
A sprawling, dense, vivid and colourful epic, charting the rise and fall of three key figures in the French Revolution, their early lives and connections, their intertwining or contrasting domestic affairs, their ideals and physical and intellectual prowess, their vanities and corruptions and charisma, driving one of the great epochal historical changes. Lively and fractious and ascerbic and witty and bitter, they chart a course through the overthrow of the old regime and the dawning savagery of the new. Intense, driving, bewildering, exhausting right until the devastating end. Brilliant. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
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Hilary Mantelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keeble, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Clare Boylan
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Now that the dust has settled, we can begin to look at our situation.
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Burning is not answering (Camille quoting Rousseau)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Haiku summary
Robespierre, Danton
And Desmoulins: children of
The revolution.
(passion4reading)
Regicide, mayhem,
Chaos. The revolution
Devours her children.
(passion4reading)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312426399, Paperback)

As 19th-century novelists Alexandre Dumas and Charles Dickens both discovered, the French Revolution makes for great drama. This lesson has not been lost on Hilary Mantel, whose A Place of Greater Safety brings a 20th-century sensibility to the stirring events of 1789. Mantel's approach is nothing if not ambitious: her three main characters, Georges-Jacques Danton, Maximilien Robespierre, and Camille Desmoulins, happen to have been major players in the early days of the revolution--men whose mix of ambition, idealism, and ego helped unleash the Terror and brought them eventually to their own tragic ends. As Mantel points out in her forward, none of these men was famous before the revolution; thus not a great deal is known about their early lives. What would constrain the biographer, however, is an open invitation to the fiction writer to let the imagination run wild; thus Mantel freely extrapolates from what is known of her protagonists' personalities and relationships with each other to construct their pasts.

This is a huge, complex novel, but the author has done her homework. Though Danton, Robespierre, and Desmoulins are at the center of her story, they are by no means the only major characters who populate the novel. Mantel uses historical figures as well as fictional ones to provide different points of view on the story. As she moves from one to the next, her narrative voice changes back and forth from first to third person as she sometimes grants us access to her characters' deepest thoughts and feelings, and other times keeps us guessing. A Place of Greater Safety is a happy marriage of literary and historical fiction, and a bona fide page-turner, as well. --Margaret Prior

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:58 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

With A Place of Greater Safety Hilary Mantel makes her American debut in a dazzling and magisterial novel about one of the most crucial - and shattering - events in modern history, the French Revolution. Already acclaimed in ber native England, this hook should provoke an equally enthusiastic response from readers on this side of tbe Atlantic. At the center of this bold epic are three men who led the revolt against the tyrannies and injustices of the Ancien Regime: Georges-Jacques Danton, an ugly, ambitious, and charismatic spokesman; Maximilien Robespierre, slight, precise, wishing to do good for others; and their friend, Camille Desmoulins, an inveterate conspirator pamphleteer, and seducer (obsessed for years by a married woman, he eventually marries - he's not sure how - her daughter). Three young men of obscure origins from the provinces, all make their way to Paris, where, in 1787, they will be presented with - and will seize - the opportunity to transform their world. Surrounding these men are their friends, their families and lovers, as well as the famous figures and events that Mantel has so brilliantly depicted...Louis XVI and his decadent court, Mirabeau and Marat, the Marquis de Lafayette and the Marquis de Sade, Saint-Just and Choderlos de Laclos, the Committee of Public Safety, the Mountain, the Gironde, the Sans-culottes and Dr. Guillotin's machine. Having unleashed the forces of revolution in the name of liberty and happiness, Danton, Robespierre, and Desmoulins will become witnesses to, participants in, and, eventually, victims of an uncontrollable escalating spiral of rage and need, terror and violence. An audacious, informed, and encompassing portrayal of the genuine achievements and the harrowing tragedy of the French Revolution, Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety is fiction on a grand scale and in the grand tradition.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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