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City of Darkness, City of Light + The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History (Bedford Series in History & Culture) + A Short History of the French Revolution, 5th Edition
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (August 12, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449912752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449912751
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,077,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

The best-selling author of epic novels, poetry, and short stories (e.g., The Longings of Women, LJ 1/94) here records the fictional exploits of three influential women who helped pilot the French Revolution.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Y. Smittle on December 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
I can't lay my finger on why, but this book was hard to get through. It usually doesn't take me that long to read a book. I keep thinking its because its seperated up into different characters perspectives---or because it is so detailed. As a historian, I am not too familiar with the French Revolution, so I can't tell you how "accurate" it is. I can tell you to, read the authors introduction, in which she states she superimposed our current culture onto the culture of the French people. IE it means she didn't mess around with historical jargon. I didn't mind that at all---especially since she explained that to us in the introduction. Some others find fault with it, I guess. It depends on what you prefer in historical fiction.
Ms. Piercey tells the story of women from several different walks of life, as well as the story from some of the major players in the Revolution. I can tell you that after I finished this book, I went to the bookstore and looked through a general history of the Revolution and was able to identify everyone pictured in it, as well as all the scenarios and events. So---yes, its very detailed. I liked it, it was just hard to get through...
Theres an actress, a chocolatier, Mme. Roland, whom I didn't care for, Nicholas Condorcet, who I did like, Danton and Robespierre. She shared all different walks of life for me, as far as I'm concerned. I appreciate that she took the time and effort to share with us the different aspects of the people, the very real people of the Revolution. She makes them so real.
She is obviously a feminist, too, by her style. But using her feminist background, she was able to explain to us exactly how and why so much of the Revolution depended on THE WOMEN. And NOT the rich, "educated," women! Pretty good; Just expect to take it slow!!
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on June 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a good read.
This is good history. This is great fiction. This is the honest story of the French revolution, told from the side of masses of working people, peasants, real French people, told from the side of women and men who live as we live. This is a story of people finding searching for truth and love. This is not about disillusion with revolution, disillusion with the great moments when masses of working people take the world in their hands, this is a celebration of it, of love. This is not about the tragedy of the French revolution, but about the glory of it, and the glory of working men and above all working women.
When big fights will rage to turn back the Clinton-Gore-Bush Cheeny billionaire led attacks on the standard of living of working people, their wars against people around the world, the hideous lame, stupid repulsive culture that blares out of the television and the radio monopolies, books like this will be in the hands of the young women, the young men who will lead the changes. Read this book and feel that young power, look into the past and see our future.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
As a long time admirer of Ms Piercy's work, I picked up a copy of "City of Darkness : City of Light" to enjoy on holiday. It seemed to promise all the enjoyment of "Gone For Soldiers" - an epic novel of WWII beautifully told from a number of perspectives. . Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations - or indeed the reviews I've read of it. Maybe the problem was that of the characters: all well-known players in the politics of the time. I knew a lot about them already and this book didn't seem to add much. I think Piercy deserves applause for her recognition of the role of women. However, if you want the really great contemporary novel of the French Revolution, try Hilary Mantel's "A Place of Greater Safety".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jeannette Gabriel on December 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
I have bought dozens of copies of this book and given them to everyone I know. It is a beautiful study of the French Revolution from a socialist feminist perspective. Piercy's growth as a writer is evident, she develops a political contextualization of the French Revolution that goes far beyond her earlier works. This book shows the process of how political movements develop and grow, and how various forces and factions affect the balance of power. This book reminded me of the flash of brilliance Piercy showed in Women on the Edge of Time and proved that the early Piercy has grown and matured. Many readers will not be able to sit through the description of political infighting and factional power plays. But for me that was the strength of the book. Piercy placed personal stories into a larger political struggle and actually brings her characters to life. One last point. When I was in Paris last summer searching for the memorial to the Paris Commune (there isn't one!) I realized how Piercy had really brought the people of Paris alive as a revolutionary movement struggling to be free. A beautiful book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Laquita A. Angst on February 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
The people drove the French Revolution. From the most powerful leaders, such as Danton, to the people of the districts, like Claire Lacombe, who held their pikes, the Revolution was all about the people.
Piercy - a poet, novelist, and occasional playwright - mixes what is known about this time in French history with her vivid imagination. This novel must be called fiction, but Piercy's use of real events and people makes for an interesting study of non-fiction.
The work is written with the average person in mind. Still, one can not overlook Piercy's intense attention to detail and accuracy. This shows that Piercy may have been writing with the layperson in mind, but she also sought to gain scholarly readers. She took all of the facts surrounding the Revolution and filled in the gaps with logical speculation to create this masterful novel.
Centered on the lives of six main characters, the novel tells the story of the French Revolution from the vantage points of these six. At times their paths cross, and the large world of France becomes smaller to the reader. Characters like Maximilien Robespierre and Manon Roland come alive and history seems to make perfect sense. The cast of real-life characters is presented in a way that no history book ever could.
After reading this novel, a student of the French Revolution is better equipped to understand the finer points of the period in detail. Having a personality to attach to a name can make facts and situations easier to recall. Though the novel should not be taken as history, it is certainly a good base for future study of the French Revolution.
The novel also puts a human side to this turbulent era. Cold facts cannot convey intentions, feelings, or home lives of the major and minor players of any period.
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