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A Place of Greater Safety

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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  7,505 ratings  ·  967 reviews
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.
Paperback, 749 pages
Published November 14th 2006 by Picador (first published 1992)
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Angela Shields It takes the real characters of the French revolution, some well known like Robespierre and others less well known and fleshes out their characters an…moreIt takes the real characters of the French revolution, some well known like Robespierre and others less well known and fleshes out their characters and their backgrounds. In this way you get a much fuller picture of the French revolution. It has modern parallels with more recent revolutions which have many factions. By making the characters alive, the novel, for all its great length, is a good satisfying read. (less)
Anne Wolf Hall is part 1, Bring Up the Bodies is part 2, and part 3, The Mirrror and the Light will be published in March 2020.

A Place of Greater Safety is…more
Wolf Hall is part 1, Bring Up the Bodies is part 2, and part 3, The Mirrror and the Light will be published in March 2020.

A Place of Greater Safety is unconnected to this trilogy.(less)

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Paul Bryant
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
·Karen·
Aug 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, brits
"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
Diane S ☔
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor-2019
My first successful fictional audio book. The narrator Jonathsn Keeble, is I thought, fantastic. I actually listened and read this, following along with the narration. The book itself, concentrated on three prominent figures of the French Revolution, was witty, informative, if not quite historically accurate, though certain events were. Centering on the lives of three let the reader enter their thoughts, actions and personal lives. Mantel has a way with words, wringing out of them, both the absu ...more
Jane
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Roman Clodia
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Re-read August 2020
I dreamt of a republic which all the world would have adored; I could never have believed that men could be so ferocious and so unjust.

After struggling a bit the first time, I came back to this novel and this time round loved it! I'd say it's a book that needs time and concentration (plus Google open at the side unless you're an aficionado of the French Revolution and the various and shifting factions). It has an interesting provenance as Mantel started writing it in 1974
...more
Teresa
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Henk
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
A winding, sprawling novel that leaves nearly all its characters dead due to cancel culture taken to the extreme
or
How you transition from the opposition to the establishment that needs to be toppled in 950 sweeping pages - 3 stars.

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.

Three lawyers (
...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
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
There’s no way I would’ve finished this if Mantel weren’t one of my favorite authors. And even then, there was a whole lot of sunk cost fallacy getting me to the end. It’s fascinating to see the germination for her later (greater) novels by examining what does and doesn’t work in this one. For me, there was too much historical detail and unconventional structure, with too little novelistic glue to help the reader appreciate and enjoy these other elements. The Thomas Cromwell novels lead you down ...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.
Alice Poon
Nov 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was reading this epic novel non-stop for the last seven days and, with a sigh of relief, I finally reached the end yesterday. While mulling on how to write this review, an immediate thought that came to mind was that the novel could’ve been tightened and slimmed down by a fifth to a quarter. I’m giving it a rating of 4.2 stars out of 5.

On the whole, it is a rigorously researched work of historical fiction describing in minute details the emotional, sexual and political lives of the three leadi
...more
Bettie
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b068sjpb

Description: 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.

French Revolution Timeline

Liberty

Equality

Fraternity

Excellent dramatisation, Melissa Murray.
Thanks you R4.

Camille: Carl Prekopp
Danton: Mark Stobbart
Robespierre: Sam Troughton
Narrator Lizzy Watts
Narrator Paul Ritter
Lucile Chloe Pirrie
Ga
...more
Lyn Elliott
Nov 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
F.G. Cottam
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sarah
Mar 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Darwin8u
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I will review more tomorrow. Just too much. Mantel is amazing. The book was too long. Not as good as her Cromwell cycle, but still, dear GOD can Mantel write and subvert history. I walked away from this book, I think, in love with three enfants terrible of the French Revolution. It really is true, I think, that to know someone is to love them.

In someways telling the history of the French revolution is perfect using these three men. It is like Mantel places the ID (Danton), EGO (Desmoulins), and
...more
Jan-Maat
Once upon a time Hillary Mantel took creative writing classes. The teacher asked the class what they wanted to get out of the class, apart from Mantel, everybody wanted to make a living writing for women's magazines, she however wanted to write a big serious novel about the French revolution.

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 in between. I don't remember
...more
Sarah
Warning: I don't add spoilers to history or historical fiction. Everyone dies! Look it up!

That the French Revolution happened seems amazing, more astounding than the American Revolution (colonies revolting against a distant king seems rather predictable). It’s no easy feat to topple a monarchy. You need well-placed folks with charisma and a savvy outreach program.

"A Place of Greater Safety" follows three key figures of the revolution from childhood to the guillotine (though one ekes out a few
...more
Philip Allan
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
At its worst, historical fiction can be little more than a modern tale in fancy dress. But when it is well researched, and the author has a passion for their period, it can shine a light into the past that is more illuminating than factual history. This was true for me when I read Hilary Mantel’s brilliant account of four young men, swept up by the French Revolution. I came away with a much deeper understanding of the events than I had ever gained from historical study. Mantel’s style is not to ...more
Felicia
Dec 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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.
Nick Pageant
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
This is highly recommended for history buffs. Hilary Mantel is a phenomenal writer. She made me believe she was there and saw. Good stuff.
Pei Pei
May 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Todd Smalley
Aug 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Bruce
Sep 09, 2014 rated it really liked it

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
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
Paul E. Morph
I don't read a great deal of historical fiction; in fact, I'm struggling to think of any other historical fiction I've read off the top of my head, but that could just be the premature senility. I bought this one because I've been meaning to read some Hilary Mantel for awhile, to see what all the fuss was about, and this book was Audible's book of the day.

It's certainly a well written book, exploring the French Revolution on a very human, nuts and bolts level (although there's unavoidably a sign
...more
Denis
Oct 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Chrissie
May 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hf, kirkus, france
A VERY good book about the French Revolution. It is engaging, clear. This book makes learning history fun!
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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 Wolf Hall 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 Exper ...more

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