City of Darkness, City of Light

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9780449912751: City of Darkness, City of Light

"FAST-PACED . . . PIERCY BREATHES LIFE INTO THE ACTUAL HISTORICAL FIGURES WHO SHAPED THE REVOLUTION."
--San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle

In her most splendid, thought-provoking novel yet, Marge Piercy brings to vibrant life three women who play prominent roles in the tumultuous, bloody French Revolution--as well as their more famous male counterparts.

Defiantly independent Claire Lacombe tests her theory: if men can make things happen, perhaps women can too. . . . Manon Philipon finds she has a talent for politics--albeit as the ghostwriter of her husband's speeches. . . . And Pauline Léon knows one thing for certain: the women must apply the pressure or their male colleagues will let them starve. While illuminating the lives of Robespierre, Danton, and Condorcet, Piercy also opens to us the minds and hearts of women who change their world, live their ideals--and are prepared to die for them.

"MASTERFUL . . . PIERCY BRINGS THE BLOOD AND GUTS, THE IDEAS AND PASSIONS, OF THE REVOLUTION TO LIFE."
--The Women's Review of Books

"PIERCY'S STORYTELLING POWERS CAPTURE THE TURBULENCE AND EXCITEMENT OF [THIS] LIBERATING ERA."
--The Boston Herald

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From Kirkus Reviews:

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 clich‚s 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 L‚on, 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. (Quality Paperback Book club featured alternate selection) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Depicting the experiences of three brave women, Piercy (Gone to Soldiers) explores the human reality of the French Revolution, bringing to life the immense role women played in bringing down the monarchy. Claire Lacombe escapes the grinding poverty of her youth by becoming an actress in a traveling troupe. Beautiful and filled with the determination that can be forged by enduring hardship, she becomes an inspiring symbol as she dares to participate in pivotal events. Manon Philipon, a jeweler's daughter, idolizes Rousseau and the life of the mind. Marrying an austere government bureaucrat, she learns that she has an innate grasp of politics. Pauline Leon, the owner of a chocolate shop, is galvanized when she witnesses the executions of poor people rioting for bread. Their three stories are deftly braided with the lives of three men?the incorruptible Robespierre, the opportunistic Danton and Nicolas Caritat, an academician trying to walk the high wire between old and new. Men may be necessary to drive the plot, but women are its engine. It is women who take to the streets looking for "justice, bread and freedom," and who win concessions on issues like divorce and inheritance rights. Piercy skillfully juxtaposes the political debates, painfully slow reforms and bloody confrontations against the ironies and absurdities of everyday life. Since the novel offers multiple perspectives, events sometimes overlap and readers must pay close attention to the dates listed with chapter headings. This is a minor obstacle, however, in a novel that adds fresh, powerfully grounding perspective to accepted historical fact. QPB featured alternate.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Piercy, Marge
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Piercy, Marge
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