A Place of Greater Safety is this month´s club read in the More Historical than Fiction book club. And I just want to say thank you for bringing this novel to my attention, because it is brilliant.
Admittedly it is not the easiest read. Covering the French Revolution up till the year 1794 and focusing on three key figures of the Revolution, Desmoulins, Danton and Robespierre, it comes in handy to know a little bit about the historical background of the revolution and the lives of the main characters. So besides reading the novel I did some additional reading of the historical facts, which made it a lot easier to follow the story.
Another thing, that made this book a tough read, is Mantels narrative style, which is peculiar. She constantly jumps between people, places and situations. Sometimes it is hard to discern, who is talking right now and which character is behind the “he” in one particular sentence. Eventually I did get the hang of it, but it did take some time getting used to it.
But Mantels style of narration makes this book into the exceptional read that it is. Through her narration, she creates these three-dimensional characters, which at one point you are growing attached to. And she doesn´t stop at the three main characters. The Women in their lives and other important people in the French Revolution, like Mirabeau, Marat and Saint-Just, get their characterization as well. I particularly like, that Mantels characters are very human and that her characterization doesn´t differ from the historical facts that are known about these people. And no one is either good or bad. They all have some redeeming qualities. This is best shown with Robespierre, the incorruptible, which easily could have been the big villain in this book. Well, he isn´t and in the end I kind of felt sad for him, even if he has done all those horrible things.
A Place of Greater Safety is a great book with great characters and an engaging story. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has an interest in historical fiction.