A Place of Greater Safety
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A Place of Greater Safety

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  2,495 ratings  ·  435 reviews
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. His dearest friend, Camille Desmoulins, is a conspirator and pamphleteer of genius. A cha...more
Paperback, 749 pages
Published November 14th 2006 by Picador (first published 1992)
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Paul
Nov 23, 2012 Paul rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
Finally decided to jack this one and I'm light-headed and blinking like a person unaccustomed to the light and the sweet air of liberty. What a bummer when you pick a big long novel and it turns out to be the pain in the arse this one did - not so bad that I could apply the 100 page rule but not so good that I actually wanted to pick the thing up and read the words in it. This is a magnificently detailed weird-ass almost day-by-day recreation of the French Revolution seen through the ever-talkin...more
Kim
As Hilary Mantel states in the author’s note, "[t]his is a novel about the French Revolution and almost all of the characters in it are real people". Mantel goes on to write that the novel “is closely tied to historical facts – as far as those facts are agreed – which isn’t really very far”. The narrative focuses on three men who are central to the Revolution: the hard-headed pragmatist, Georges-Jacques Danton; the passionate rabble-rouser, Camille Desmoulins and the fanatic ideologue, Maximilie...more
Jane
Where I got the book: my local library. Spoilers but only if you never knew the French Revolution = wholesale death and that real characters who lived 200+ years ago may be a little on the deceased side by now anyway.

"Louise Robert says she would write a novel...but she fears that as a character in fiction Camille would not be believed. Indeed, I just had to look him up to make sure."

Oh, Camille. What a character. And he's flanked by two more tours de force of the literary re-creation of history...more
Sue
Well, thanks to the ministrations of Hilary Mantel, I now feel that I have the start of an understanding of the French Revolution and some of its key players. While A Place of Greater Safety is an acknowledged historical fiction, it is peopled with historical figures who lived the revolution, wrote its new laws and newspapers, created and were victims of its blood-lust.

Mantel uses multiple styles in her creation: writing in the third and first person; inserting occasional historic quotes; recre...more
·Karen·
"For historians, creative writers provide a kind of pornography. They break the rules and admit the thing that is imagined, but is not licensed to be imagined."
Thus Hilary Mantel in an illuminating article on Robespierre in the London Review of Books. Her use of the p-word is a measure of the kind of disdain she feels emanating from the academic historians, who seem to think there are only two kinds of history, the 'sceptical and rational' or the 'imaginative and erratic'. But Mantel has defini...more
Pei Pei
This book is one of my all-time favorites, and I remain in awe of Mantel for balancing the historical and political elements with telling a darn good story. She deals with an enormous cast of characters (most of which history itself supplied, but she makes them come to life), and her portrayal of Camille and Lucile Desmoulins in particular is utterly captivating--they definitely steal the book. If you don't know much about the French Revolution, you will probably be a bit confused by the plot, b...more
Sarah
Sigh. Good, but not quite Wolf Hall (though you can see the roots of it, stylistically), and there are just so many people in it... I had to put it aside to read the history of the Caucasus, for some clarity and light relief, which tells you something. Back into it now.

EDIT: crawling painfully towards the finish. Every word, phrase, paragraph is inspired, but my god, in the whole, it's a drag.

EDIT: Halleluja.

I really struggled with this (and always develop an irrational antipathy towards books t...more
F.G. Cottam
This novel is too long. It comes in at 872 pages in the paperback edition I read and some sections - like the description of the doomed but tedious Madame Roland - could have been cut without doing any damage to character, narrative or atmosphere.
So why five stars? Simply because A Place of Greater Safety is such a magnificently imagined account of the French Revolutionary Terror that to give it fewer would be churlish and an injustice. The author takes three principle characters - all of them e...more
Fionnuala
If you want to begin to understand how revolution happens, how individuals get to manipulate the mob, how rioters can be triggered to bring down a government or a monarch, this well researched and beautifully written fictionalised account of the French revolution is a good place to start.
Chris
French people are strange! Maybe it's the eating the snails. I mean honestly, okay, here in America we eat strange things too. Pickled Pig's Feet, Pickles that are pickled in Kool-Aid, and Twinkies (what is in a twinkie). But the French sure brought head loss to a whole new level. Honestly, I think it was the snails (apparently, according to the Romans, snails fed on meat are too die for).

Or maybe the wine.

Or maybe it was the fact that the only meat the average French person could have was bug.

O...more
Warwick
A flawed book, but a very impressive and absorbing one.

Mantel traces the story of the Revolution through the experiences of Danton, Robespierre and Desmouslins, along with an extensive cast of the men and women who knew, loved, or hated them. If I'm honest I'd have to say it could have lost a couple of hundred pages – a tighter edit is definitely in there somewhere, although there's something to be said for a lengthy story that you have to live with for a few days.

Part of me wanted more detail a...more
Denis
This massive, dense, and complex book is an extremely impressive achievement. Mantel's novel about the French Revolution is a towering yet intimate epic, which, by following three of the most iconic revolutionaries of the era, paints a fascinating portrait not only of multiple men and women living through extraordinary (and intensely dangerous) times, but also of what a revolution truly is - and of what it inevitably becomes. It is a chilly, cautionary tale. This book is unlike ordinary historic...more
Todd Smalley
This review is an absolute rave about this book. I actually had to knock a couple of other books down out of 5-star ratings because the gap between APoGS and the other books was too wide to be in the same rating group. I picked it up, not knowing (or caring) much about the French Revolution, after enjoying Mantel's Wolf Hall immensely. I now feel I understand a great deal about the revolution, and had a wonderful time getting there.

The most compelling part of this book is Mantel's means of stor...more
John  Bellamy
It is fate of great and prolific authors to be judged by their better or best books. Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge and Hard Times suffer by comparison with David Copperfield and Great Expectations, while Charlotte Bronte’s Villette and Shirley remain ugly literary stepsisters in the seductive company of Miss Jane Eyre. And such is likely to be the fate of Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety. True, it’s as great and entertaining a novel as has ever been written about the French Revolution,...more
Felicia
Very cool history of the French Revolution told in a fictionalized style. The insight of the author into human behavior, and the fullness she gives these vivid yet dry characters from history is amazing! Truly a great book.
Paddy
rivetting - couldn't put it down. Mantel's writing races and flicks about, just like thoughts do. How does she do that??? The characters came right off the pages to me - Camille Desmoulins - who could ever forget him? Robespierre.... strange. Beyond strange. Mad? Did he actually go mad? I just bought Peter McPhee's book 'Robespierre'. It could be fascinating to read his take on 'The Incorruptible'. Well, if he went mad, it's no wonder, with a label like that! How on earth could you live up to it...more
Bruce

This historical novel by Hilary Mantel focuses on three primary figures from the French Revolution – Robespierre, Danton, and Desmoulins. The exploration of their lives, their characters, their interactions, and their historical roles necessarily draws in dozens of other personages, most actually historical, and for the reader familiar with the events of the time the result is a satisfying window into the ambiance of those difficult years.

Mantel is a skillful and engaging writer. Her use of meta...more
Hernan
To begin with, sorry for my poor english, I´m from Argentina and I´m not used to write in your language. I´ve read Mantel´s book in spanish a couple of times so far and, even though I don´t agree with her scope on certain characters –specially Danton –, I´m forced to agree that it´s one of the best historical novels I ´ve ever read. It´s so well written, sometimes in first person, with monologues where the characters show themselves to the reader, others as if you were sat on a theatre. The port...more
Marina
Beginning in blood and ending in blood, this, to paraphrase Edmund Blackadder, 'huge rollercoaster of a novel, crammed with sizzling Frenchies', deals with the French Revolution and the life and times of 3 men behind (or in one case, in front of) it.
George-Jaques Danton arrives in Paris to practice law. He marries a daughter of a cafe owner. He makes friends interested in change. He is interested in money.
Camille Desmoulins arrives in Paris to practice law. After a long struggle he marries a civ...more
Catherine
This is a book that's terribly hard to pin down. At the macro level, it's about the French Revolution, from the days before 1789 to the height of the Terror. At the micro level it's about friendship, and the shifting, gendered meaning of the same in a time when everything is being transformed. Somewhere between it's about the meaning of political action; about truth and justice and the possibility (or impossibility) of lodging those within the workings of state.

It's also 746 pages long.

I read th...more
Matt Brady
Ideas are born from the minds of men and women, shaped by their own talents, personalities, flaws, prejudices and biases. When looking at important historical events, it's easy to forget that, forget the people who had these ideas. Or rather, it's easy to forget that they are simply people, regular people, who have dislikes and weaknesses, people who make mistakes. That is what is at the heart of A Place of Greater Safety. The people behind the French Revolution, or some of them at least, and th...more
Lori (Hellian)
1/2+ mark:

I've always been obsessed with the French Revolution. Love Marge Piercy's book about it. It never fails to amaze me that France has this revolution, and when it is over they crown an Emperor, and then recall the monarchy! Totally bizarre.

I once went for a massage which was excellent but the woman fancied herself a psychic. She claimed that the pain I was feeling in my back hamstring was where I got a mortal injury from the Civil War. I feel no affinity with that. Hey maybe it's becaus...more
Merilee
I just read 130 pages of this and need to put it down only to sleep (and this after a longish day hiking in the sun). This book is really good (and substantially easier to follow than Wolf Hall). The intersecting paths of Robespierre, Danton, and Desmoulins (from boyhood) make so much more sense now (and I've just gotten to 1788). I was expecting the book to be good, but not such a page-turner!


Finally finished it after putting it down to read other (group) stuff. This book is good enough to sta...more
Aarti
Everything about this book is huge- its length, its scope, its cast, and its research. Mantel takes us to the razor's edge- showing how those brilliant men who engineered and orchestrated the French Revolution and its ideals lost control of their creation and became victims themselves of the Terror. It is immensely readable, with engaging, complex characters. Mantel does an excellent job of portraying Robespierre, Desmoulins and Danton in a way which leads readers to be sympathetic towards them...more
Catherine Metzger
I'm on page 486--only about 300 more to go and each evening I pick up the book I say in a smartass kind of way, "I need to read my book on the French Revolution to see what happens." Well, someone once told me how bloody the French Revolution was--all revolutions usually involve fighting and death, I said--but she insisted, no, bloody in a bloodlust, pent-up-rage kind of way: insanity in the name of liberty. So don't read this if the sight of blood makes you faint.

These large books can try my p...more
Jan-Maat
Very impressive and enjoyable historical novel that runs up to the fall of Danton from the childhood of some of the leading revolutionaries and their interrelations in the years inbetween.
Jenny Q
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Ms. Mantel has been in the press quite a bit lately thanks to the critical success of her latest, Wolf Hall: A Novel. Almost every review I've read mentions the unusual writing style she uses, so when I received this book for Christmas, I was curious. Her style is different, though not difficult as I had feared. She jumps around to different tenses and points of view; from omniscient to third to first, some scenes are in the present tense, some feature a character addre...more
Caroline
In the late 1700s, the growing unrest in France by the populace leads to some men and women pushing their ideals towards the forming of a republic to great heights and for some, to great falls. This is the beginning of the French Revolution, and amongst the many characters who played a part in the fall of the monarchy, are 3 men, George-Jacques Danton, Camille Desmoulins and Maximilien Robespierre.

The relationship of these 3 men is fascinating. Danton is an ambitious lawyer, charismatic, lusty a...more
Erin
Nov 10, 2011 Erin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
This book took me an absurdly long time to read, but man, was it worth it. Hilary Mantel's brain is some sort of freakish treasure - every time I read her, I am simultaneously elated by the beautiful things she creates and depressed that I will never be able to write the way she does. She breaks so many rules (constantly changing POV not just between characters, but from first person to an anonymous third, to her own voice, to a script format, back to traditional dialogue, &c.), but it all w...more
William Ramsay
I am becoming a real Hillary Mantel fan.

This is an earlier book of hers, written in the same style as Woolf Hall, which allows her to cover a huge amount of information and number of characters in a minimum of words. This is the story of the French Revolution or al least the story of the three main characters, Danton, Robespierre, and Camille Desmoulins, three men who were instrumental in bringing on and establishing the revolution but were betrayed by the terror they had created.

I've read a nu...more
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Hilary Mantel is the bestselling author of many novels including Wolf Hall, which won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Bring Up the Bodies, Book Two of the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy, was also awarded the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Award. She is also the author of A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, An...more
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Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2) Beyond Black Wolf Hall / Bring Up the Bodies Fludd

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“When it was time to write, and he took his pen in his hand, he never thought of consequences; he thought of style. I wonder why I ever bothered with sex, he thought; there's nothing in this breathing world so gratifying as an artfully placed semicolon.” 30 likes
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