City of Darkness, City of Light

City of Darkness, City of Light

3.91 (1,003 ratings by Goodreads)
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This novel recreates the role that women played in the French Revolution. Intermingled with the lives of Robespierre and Danton are the stories of fictional characters and a city of opposites, from the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at Versailles to the poor who riot for more

Product details

  • Paperback | 624 pages
  • 110 x 176 x 46mm | 340.19g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • 0140266062
  • 9780140266061

Review Text

An awkward and agenda-heavy novel, the second this season on the subject of the French Revolution (see Tanith Lee, above). In an author's note, Piercy (The Longings of Women, 1994, etc.), a self-described woman of the left and feminist, declares that she wanted to write about the Revolution and a "society in crisis" - 18th-century France - that might "illuminate our own situation." While the rich in the US may be getting richer and the poor more desperate, however, the US still isn't Royalist France, so the comparisons are less than persuasive. Still, the stories Piercy's six characters - three of them women - tell are vivid, if marred by cliches and colloquialisms ("They're guys just like in the neighborhood"). The narrators, all based on prominent historical figures, include "Max" Robespierre, the ascetic absolutist who created the Reign of Terror; Georges Danton, the ebullient orator; Nicholas Condorcet, an intellectual inspired by the example of the American Revolution; Claire Lacombe, an actress and activist; Pauline Leon, a chocolate-maker who organized the women; and Manon Roland, whose famous last words were, "Ah, liberty, what crimes are committed in your name." Alternate chapters describe the characters' early lives and their revolutionary roles. Max, who heard his mother die in childbirth, resolved never to have children; Claire ran away from home to escape becoming a laundress like her own mother; Pauline, who grew up poor, married an affluent army officer; Nicholas was an aristocrat who broke with his class; Manon used her intellectual talents to further her husband's career; and Georges wanted to retire to his native province and raise a family. All six witness or participate in events like the storming of the Bastille. But as the "Revolution begins to eat its children," they are caught up in the violence. Only Claire and Pauline survive in a France that is altered, somewhat improved, but still flawed. Dickens did it better. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

1,003 ratings
3.91 out of 5 stars
5 32% (321)
4 37% (376)
3 22% (224)
2 7% (68)
1 1% (14)
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