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A Place of Greater Safety

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  3,837 ratings  ·  563 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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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensThe Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska OrczyA Place of Greater Safety by Hilary MantelMadame Tussaud by Michelle MoranMarie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser
The French Revolution
3rd out of 152 books — 190 voters
Wolf Hall by Hilary MantelThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakA Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Literary Historical Fiction
33rd out of 408 books — 493 voters

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Community Reviews

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Paul Bryant
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
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
"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
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
Having read her two Cromwell novels, I couldn't help comparing the style Mantel perfected in those to this much earlier work. For example, the depictions of the childhoods of the three main characters reminded me of the same technique she uses to first get us engaged in and sympathetic toward Cromwell in Wolf Hall. In all three novels, once blood is shed, and alliances made and remade--and even though I know what's coming--the tension is ratcheted up to an almost unbearable pitch. A lovely passa ...more
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Sep 23, 2015 Yann marked it as à-considérer
Propagande anglaise du XVIIIe siècle


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
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.

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
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
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.
Whew....I made it.

As with Mantel's other novels, she throws out all the rules for writing a novel and comes up with an astounding result that is uniquely hers. She unapologetically assumes that her readers will already be familiar with the triple threat of the French Revolution and feels free to recreate them in her own style. Camille Desmoulins, Georges-Jacques Danton, and Maximilian Robespierre go from awkward school children to gods of their own making in this epic novel.

I saw a lot of Mantel
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
Lyn Elliott
Mantel took on a huge challenge with this, her first book, set aside for twenty years before its eventual publication.
The questions she asks are: at what moment in the political revolution in France is there no going back and, for her three main characters (Danton, Desmoulins and Robespierre) 'Is there a moment when life changes decisively, where there is absolutely no return to the person you were before, or the conditions as they were.' This leads to a further question: 'how an individual can,
From BBC Radio 4 - Drama:
Hilary Mantel's gripping account of the cataclysmic events of the French Revolution seen through the eyes of three of its most important figures, Georges Danton, Camille Desmoulins and Maximilien Robespierre.

Episode 1: Liberty
Hilary Mantel's epic account of the French Revolution.

Episode 2: Equality
Hilary Mantel's epic account of the French Revolution as seen through the eyes of its principal characters. Pressure is growing on the revolutionaries to depose the king and cr
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
To begin with, sorry for my poor english, Im from Argentina and Im not used to write in your language. Ive read Mantels book in spanish a couple of times so far and, even though I dont agree with her scope on certain characters –specially Danton –, Im forced to agree that its one of the best historical novels I ve ever read. Its 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 portrait of C ...more
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
Fresh from the thrill of "Wolf Hall," this Mantel account of the French Revolution was a serious buzz kill. Not only that, but it shrouded me in a miasma of ignominy because it was my choice of the year for my book club. Last night, I tried to make amends by cooking up a big batch of what I imagined to be French peasant food (soup, bread, pastries and lots of Cotes du Rhone), and we tackled how this reading made us queasy, how "difficult" it was and why I won't get to choose another title for a ...more
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
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.
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
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
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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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“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.” 37 likes
“[H]ope takes you by the throat like a stranger, it makes your heart leap...” 15 likes
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