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    Great Historical Fiction – Worth Picking Up

    I received this book through NetGalley and its publisher, The Dial Press, and sure am glad I did. I enjoy historical genre books and I learned facts about the French Revolution and General Napoleon Bonaparte in an entertaining way. This book provided much more insight into life and trials during these times. In the epilogue, the authors share changes made in the story to actual facts. These changes did not impact the storyline. The authors were successful in a goal to “tell a compelling story that managed to capture the feeling and spirit of this momentous and tumultuous period.” The book contained was suspense (Jean-Luc and his missing family), educational (French Revolution, Jacobin, Bourbon Court, Council of Five Hundred, Period of the Directory), romance (Andre and Sophie) and actual historical locations (Tuileries Gardens, Place de la Revolution). I found myself checking for more detailed facts as I progressed through the book on items such as The Law of Suspects, Revolutionary Tribunal, and Terror (which was “halted in the Thermidorian Reaction of July 1794 when 22 political allies were executed”). The Prologue leads you to believe a beheading will occur for a main character, Andre. Not sure the purpose of this…. Throughout the book, I expected Andre to end up with the guillotine. This was a bit misleading and I’m unsure of its purpose. Often it felt like the people of France were living on edge. The few people in control had too much power – threats, beheadings, confiscation of property, and imprisonment with a simple denouncement. “This was a land where people in power made the choices, and people without power paid – often with their lives.” “Reason and its sisters, Mercy and Integrity, were poor pillars upon which to build a defense these days.” The reader gains an understanding of the challenges for King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who were falling out of favor with the French people and eventually faced the guillotine. An example of factual detail the authors share: “The all-powerful monarchy, King Louis XVI and his family tried to flee the country. This action, known as the failed “Flight to Varennes,” sealed the king’s fate.” All of my senses were utilized. The book did a great job making me see and feel the guillotine area: “… he had no stomach for the throngs on an execution day; he did everything he could to avoid that blood-soaked square.” I could see what it was like during times of battle: “Several other Prussians were hit. A handful of Frenchmen dropped below the tall wheat their own bodies catching bullets…” I could smell the battle: “…layer of smoke had begun seeping over the field, so that it filled Andre’s nostrils, He coughed once…” Hear the battle: “The massive French squares began to march. As the drummers and fifes kept time, the soldiers moved in perfect unison, the great squares advancing forward in one massive body. Dust churned at their feet as they moved toward their enemy; Andre marveled at the discipline required…” Felt the fear during battle: “The survivors, seeing the carnage all around them, turned and fled, leaving their screaming comrades in the grass as the onslaught of Austrian bayonets turned the wounded into corpses.” I felt like I was on the battlefield: “The smoke from the cannon fire had billowed forward and now settled like a rain cloud, darkening the field with its shadow and stink as the melee unfolded all around him.” Much factual history is provided: “[Bastille] a fortress in Paris built in the 14th century and used in the 17th-18th centuries as a state prison. Its storming by the mob on July 14, 1789, marked the start of the French Revolution.” It was interesting to learn the negative a noble lineage carried during these times. For example, Andre dropped the “de” that had preceded his last name and denounced his nobility. You gain insight into Napoleon Bonaparte and his military expertise. ”… Bonaparte is unlike anyone I have ever seen. He fears nothing and yields to no one. He moves his armies faster than many men would think possible.” You gain an understanding how countrymen viewed Napoleon” “We are here not merely to advance the cause of France or the Republic of our people. No, we are here to enhance the glory of all of civilization.” “ …a counterattack. Like sheepherders, Bon’s division fenced in the disoriented and scattered Mamelukes, funneling them and their horses toward the river. This was the tactical genius of Napoleon Bonaparte at work; he had harnessed not only thousands of men and tons of steel, but even nature itself in his purposes.” “…--Napoleon’s desire to take his glory beyond France. Plans to conquer England, Austria, and even the vast lands beyond.” A great quote still true today: “People are like the apples you find in a harvest bushel… Some are right and good, and some are rotten.”
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