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A Place of Greater Safety

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  6,551 ratings  ·  853 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…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)

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3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,551 ratings  ·  853 reviews

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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners

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




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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Todd Smalley
Aug 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, re-read
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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.

The revolution that cannibalised itself!

My edition had 985 pages, and I'm a slow reader, so to have come to the end of this novel in 2.5 weeks has left me feeling a bit shell-shocked. I've decided to give it 3.5★ because although I enjoyed it, I can't imagine ever wanting to re-read it, and that's one of my tests for 4★.

Being a huge fan of the Wolf Hall (soon-to-be) trilogy, I was really interested to see how this earlier example of Mantel's epic, speculative, historical fiction compared. My con
An epic, detailed and lively tale of the French revolution - an assured and impressive debut novel, highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed the Cromwell novels.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well, this was devastating. You often know what you're getting into when you read historical fiction, but I still read the last 100 pages in a panic & then had to go sit by myself for a minute after finishing this because they cut off Camille's head & I was rather upset about it.

"The maid found a handkerchief of hers, under the bed in which she had died. A ring that had been missing turned up in his own writing desk. A tradesman arrived with fabric she had ordered three weeks ago. Each d
Disclaimer: this novel really, really hurt my hands, it is so heavy.

I thought that if I didn't take this on holiday to read before my PhD begins, I would probably wait for years to pass before reading it. I very much enjoy Mantel's work on the whole, and a holiday in France seemed rather a good place in which to read a novel of the French Revolution. Funny, that.

I absolutely love the way in which the plot unfolded here, and Mantel's introductions of the different characters. The whole is so well
"Georges-Jacques—study law. Law is a weapon."

"He has these ideas."
"And I suppose he thinks he is too young to be made to regret them,"

I'm told that you shouldn't put yourself into the position with a woman where you have to be right all the time.
Historical fiction is one of the most abused genres in the timeline of written composition. At its worst, we have bodice rippers and zombies, whitewashing and hyper-masculinization, tales told of all times at all places doing nothing to the fact that t
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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
“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.” 49 likes
“[H]ope takes you by the throat like a stranger, it makes your heart leap...” 15 likes
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