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Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era
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Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  651 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
“[A] remarkable biography….Moorehead deftly wields periods detail…to tell the story of a captivating woman who kept her sense of self amid the vicissitudes of politics.”


From acclaimed biographer Caroline Moorhead comes Dancing to the Precipice, a sweeping chronicle of the remarkable life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin—“an astute, thoroughly engaging biography of a form
Paperback, 512 pages
Published July 27th 2010 by Harper Perennial (first published March 5th 2009)
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Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I can't recommend this biography highly enough. It's brilliant. It reads like a novel and Lucie was a strong, vibrant woman who puts all those anachronistic trying-to-be-tough-and-modern-but-coming-off-as-super-annoying historical fiction heroines to SHAME.

You couldn't make up Lucie's life. Any author that did would be accused of Forrest Gumping through history. Lucie was a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette. She lived through the terror of the French Revolution, in Paris, in exile among the e
Laura C.
Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographical
This book, by Caroline Moorhead, is the biography of Lucy Dillon, born February 25, 1770 into French and English nobility. Her mother was a lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette, her father the Colonel-proprietor of the Dillon regiment serving under Louis XVI. She was raised rich but lonely and like so many bright lonely children, she learned to observe. Thank goodness for that, as her story, written at the end of her life is an almost unbelievable eyewitness treasury of the events of her time. He ...more
Marie Capet
Jul 30, 2010 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
So far so good. I was surprised that the book could add more to the subject's actual memoirs which are fascinating (note to Hollywood: This would make an incredible movie). She adds incredible detail that Lucie couldn't (or wouldn't) give herself and explains what other events were transpiring while this spunky Irish girl from the French court was conquering the American frontier.
Nov 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: napoleon, history
It was in one of my Madame de Stael books that I first took note of Lucie Dillon, aka Marquise de la Tour du Pin, aka Madame/Contesse de Gourenet--and the multiple names is annoying when I tried to cross reference her later in some of my other books. Nine different variants I found in various books' indexes, most not differentiating that yes, the same person, just lots of titles.

This is an excellent book. If you know very little about the dying age of the Bourbons, the French Revolution, Americ
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Through the Life of Lucie La Tour du Pin, Carolyn Moorehead tells the story of the French Revolution and its aftermath. This may be the most instructive book I have read of this period. Lucie, unlike the subjects of other biographies I've read (Marie-Therese, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's DaughterNapoleon: The Path to PowerFatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution) to name some recent ones), experienced all the events from Louis XVI to Charles X. She personally knew a ...more
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First-rate writing about a woman who had the luck (good and bad) to be at the epicenter of French history during the last days of the ancien regime, the Terror, the Directory, the Consulate, the Empire, the Restoration and the reign of Louis-Philippe. When she died in 1853, Napoleon III had just instituted the Second Empire. Lucie de la Tour du Pin knew everyone of the major figures, starting with her service to Marie Antoinette as a lady-in-waiting (she declined a similar position to Josephine. ...more
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dancing to the Precipice: Lucie de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution is a beautifully detailed and extensively researched biography of the eponymous Marquise. I loved it! What a life our adventurous heroine lived! Born into a noble Parisian family in 1770, her mother and herself ladies in waiting to Marie Antoinette, Lucie and her husand lived through perhaps the most turbulent times in modern French history. They also enjoyed one of those rare things of their time and class - a happy mar ...more
Jun 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lucie’s life is recorded from the 1780s to the 1840s. All is set in the harsh realities of the French Revolution, that is the revolution before it, during ( quote; heads fly like tiles),and after.
One thinks of these times as: there where the Jacobines and then Napoleon, not so.
One also realizes why France was culturally at its pinnacle. To give an example: the salons initiated by women, where women held an equal voice to men and when their opinions where sought and respected.
Lucie lived a long
Aug 12, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't usually read biographies so it's likely most of my criticism stems from my unfamiliarity with the genre. Moorehead does a good job contextualizing Lucie's life events but somehow manages to purge almost any sense of mania while describing the French Revolution. She describes Paris and Bourdeaux as in a frenzy, but it doesn't translate beyond the page. I could not shake the feeling that reading Lucie's diaries and letters would have been more enjoyable. That said, the book did remind me h ...more
Apr 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous read. Erudite and entertaining. De La Tour Du seems to be to diarist of the French Revolution what Mary Chestnut was to the War Between the States. She was lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette and a favorite of Napoleon. She even knew Wellington. Her husband served in every government and she was close to the centers of power her entire life. A fascinating picture of the entire era which is usually divided into smaller portions of Revolution,Robespierre and Napoleon. This is an overview ...more
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Caroline Moorehead has written columns on human rights first for The Times and then for the Independent (1980-91) and has made a series of TV programmes on human rights for the BBC (1990-2000). She has also written the history of the International Committee of the Red Cross (1998) and has helped to set up a Legal Advice Centre for refugees in Cairo, where she has started schools and a nursery.
More about Caroline Moorehead...