Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Off with their heads
I was somewhat aware of what went on during the French Revolution - starving peasants rebelling, King Louis and Queen Marie Antoinette imprisoned and eventually beheaded after trying unsuccessfully to escape to Austria, and the Revolution taking a turn for the worse as it descended into a reign of terror, with many people being executed (guillotined). What I didn't realize was how terrifying life was for anyone with any ties to the aristocracy - or anyone accused of being against the Revolution. Mistress of the Revolution, by Catherine Delors is a fictional account of those times, seen through the eyes of a young aristocrat, Gabrielle, the Baroness de Peyre. Coming from a noble but impoverished family, Gabrielle is forced into an abusive marriage to a much older man at the age of 15, and then widowed at 17. Her brute of a husband leaves her almost no inheritance, so she becomes the companion of a wealthy, elderly cousin in Paris, where she is introduced to the court. Her account of aristocratic life just before the Revolution contrasts vividly with what was to come. After the fall of the monarchy, Gabrielle must hide and deny her past to remain alive. The book tells of how people informed on their neighbors - it reminded me of reading about life in the Third Reich - both were truly times of terror. Gabrielle is a very strong woman, and a character I grew to admire as I was learning a little bit more about the French Revolution (albeit fictionally).
Mistress of the Revolution