Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review- Dancing to the Precipice

I'm tempted to write as my review simply "This book is extraordinary, you should read it" and leave it at that, but I'm sure you want to know why in particular this might appeal to you.

Certainly the book is well-researched and the writing is fluid, conversational, and lacks condescension; but while that would help to make a mediocre story appealing, the life of Luice de la Tour du Pin requires no such support because it was, devoid of all ornamentation, extraordinary.

I've worried in the past that writing a character like Olympe who, while an 18th century french aristocrat, is devoted solely to one man might be a little unusual, it's not, apparently without precedent. Nor is her insistence on choosing her own husband. Lucie did both; she chose her husband against her strong-willed family's initial desires, and enjoyed a harmonious, exclusive, long relationship with him. It was even remarked upon by others at the time that she treated her husband like a lover, and had such genuine affection.

Even had Lucie herself been more typical of her peers, the circumstances of her life, living through the French Revolution, the Terror, the Directoire, Napoleon, the Restoration of the Monarchy and it's fall would make this a narrative worth exploring. If you want adventure and heartbreak and the highs and lows of hope, ambition, and strength it has them all in abundance. It's not merely Lucie's story though, it's the story of those who came in contact with her and influenced the course of events; the prescient politician Tallyrand, the beautiful Theresia Tallien who helped people escape the guillotine, the daring Duchess du Berri who dressed like a man and carried pistols, and figures everyone knows like Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon, and Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire.

In Holland, America, France, Rome, England, or starving on a vessel in the middle of the ocean Lucie was always formidable, whatever her circumstances she was a survivor, and her story, like the woman herself, is hard to put down.

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