Sunday, 25 April 2010

I've been reading Caroline Moorhead's biography of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Dancing to the Precipice. Beautifully written and based on Lucie's own diaries, this book gave me much more detail about life in France among the aristocracy during the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte than I had expected. I did study the period as part of my Open University degree, but that was rather a long time ago now and I've doubtless forgotten much, so this biography was a useful reminder of a period of great change in the history of France. It is also the tale of a formidably resourceful woman who dedicated herself to making sure her family survived the Revolution, escaping to America from hiding in Bordeaux after obtaining the help of Therese Tallien, wife of Jean Tallien, who had brought the terror of the Revolution from Paris.
The details of Lucie's life are recounted precisely, although sometimes the detail of the larger events Lucie lived through are less clear. I found the sadness of Lucie losing four of the five children that survived infancy, only one son outliving her, almost unbearable; yet Lucie herself seemed almost stoical in her attitude to these deaths.
This not a perfect book, as it seems to be a mix of biography and history, but is still an interesting read.

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