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The French Revolution: A Novel Paperback – June 15, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press (June 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593762836
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593762834
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,187,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stewart's whimsical debut (originally published on Twitter as 3,700 tweets) finds vague inspiration in the French Revolution and begins in 1989 when former pastry chef Esmerelda Van Twinkle, through a series of wacky events and coincidences, becomes involved with a coupon vender named Jasper Winslow. They have two kids--Marat and Robespierre--and after Jasper disappears, Esmerelda and the kids move in with her drunken mother, whose house has been "in boiled suspension" since her husband disappeared at sea. Despite an unpleasant stay, Esmerelda's kids are smart and determined: they put their obese mother on a diet and make their own way in the world--Robespierre in politics; Marat in the criminal underworld, then the military, and later back to the first. From Esmerelda's return to kitchen glory to Robespierre's serendipitous series of political victories, everything works out just fine. Esmerelda isn't wrong when she says that her family has gone from "ruffians to royalty in the blink of a decade," but Stewart would have done his characters and readers a favor by making the trip a bit rockier.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

First released as a series of roughly 3,700 tweets on Twitter (@thefrenchrev), Stewart’s zany debut cleverly reimagines the central events of the French Revolution in a thrilling novel that explores the meaning of success and the unlikely bonds that unite a family. On Bastille Day, 1989, Esmeralda Van Twinkle, once San Francisco’s reigning pastry chef but now a morbidly obese copy shop manager, gives birth to twins Robespierre and Marat after an impetuous love affair with Jasper Winslow, a genial coupon distributor. When Jasper mysteriously disappears, Esmeralda is forced to move in with Fanny, her lonely, tyrannical mother. As the twins become teens and Fanny’s demands become intolerable, they rebel, Robespierre turning to education and social reform; Marat to pot, pranks, and fighting in the Middle East; while together they seek to help Esmeralda restore her dignity and former charisma. Deep-cutting and full of cartoonish surprises, Stewart’s hilariously bawdy satire casts fresh light in a dark corner of the past while portraying a family whose members have somehow survived history. Now, if only they can endure each other. --Jonathan Fullmer

More About the Author

Matt Stewart made headlines worldwide when he released The French Revolution via Twitter on Bastille Day 2009. (Rest assured, the version for sale here is significantly easier to read.) His short stories have appeared in Instant City, McSweeney's, and Opium Magazine, among other venues, and, when the moonlight strikes just right across the alpine lake in his mind, he's been known to blog for The Huffington Post. The French Revolution is his first novel. For more on Matt's adventures, visit http://matt-stewart.com.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard Martin on October 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
The French Revolution holds a mirror up to society and makes us all take a look at ourselves. Matt Stewart captures food culture, San Francisco narcissism and the seditious nature of municipal politics with flair and a decidedly unique voice. Once you meet his bizarre-but-believable characters and visit the world they inhabit you won't want to leave. I couldn't put this book down and when I finished reading it I seriously considered starting at the beginning again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. Lorr on July 10, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
An exciting debut novel! The French Revolution combines a hyper-kinetic plot, extraordinary family dysfunction, and some seriously splashy word-play without ever losing its characters' humanity. Think Oscar Wao in San Francisco meeting an obese Lenore Beadsman. Then add equal parts 18th century French history and Dennis The Menace into the mix. Enjoy the ride, protect your neck.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Charles Kern Kruger on August 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
This morning, I had to experience one of the necessary thrills familiar to those of us who have recently entered our 6th decades: the routine colonoscopy. The nurses told me that rarely had they seen someone laughing with delight on their way into the procedure room. I was, of course, finishing off The French Revolution. It was a LOT better than the procedure! And funny enough to take my mind off..... well, what it is not easy to take one's mind off of. I give you this blurb:

"Takes the edge off a colonoscopy".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Miller on November 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
Can anything calling itself The French Revolution end well for anyone involved? Revolutions rarely do: it's only the descendants who will prosper.
This is a story about ordinary people living in extraordinary times far removed from its namesake's. It's not even set in France, but San France-isco. So when I say "ordinary" I don't mean Midwestern Average. These are quirky people. One starts literary life weighing roughly a full quarter ton, while her scrawny paramour ekes out his life one step above homeless. The resulting surprise offspring she names Marat and Robespierre.
What makes me think of them as "ordinary", then, is that they're protagonists rather than heroes. Although the scope of their lives carries them to powerful and even worldwide celebrity, this in and of itself does not make someone heroic. Their most epic struggles are not against external demons, but their own shortcomings, borne of oppressive underdogginess. These aren't people I want to call friend, but I was swept into the minutiae of their lives and I wanted them to win.
I can't decide whether I like the way it ended. I do know it has stuck with me. I read it 3 weeks ago, and I think about this book all the time. It haunts me. Read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jonahsachs on January 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
I moved to the SF Bay Are a few years ago and until I read this book, I don't know that I completely grasped the feel of my new home. Against all expectations, this absurdist tour through the streets, lives and dramas of my city opened my eyes to its true nature. The characters stuck with me and had me doing my own research on the French Revolution, upon which the stories are VERY loosely based. And though I can't say I completely knew where the author was going with all his wild scenarios, I was always glad to be along for the ride.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James Warner on July 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
Matt Stewart's The French Revolution melds gastronomical satire, political prophecy, hysterical realism, and all the San Francisco flavor you can swallow. This rollicking, Rabelaisian saga of a dysfunctional dynasty is as funky and full of surprises as a vat of crawfish jambalaya -- a burst of orgiastic creativity, full of gourmet spices and grasping pincers. Great beach reading as Messidor gives way to Thermidor...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Emily A on July 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
The French Revolution is a hilarious account of an only-in-San Francisco kind of adventure. It's entertaining and creative -- you certainly won't find another story out there that's remotely similar. The book is chock-a-block with lively and abundant descriptions that conjure up hilarious images. Matt Stewart is not afraid to have fun with words. Read this book!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P.J. Morse on July 12, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
You might assume that The French Revolution is actually set in France. Au contraire! Truth is, it's an only-in-San-Francisco story with a crew of characters as memorable as Napoleon and Josephine. The historical parallels are there, right down to a Waterloo, but the story takes on a life of its own. And how can it not when you have a heroine like Esmerelda Van Twinkle? With her heft--not to mention her smell--she demands attention.

So, what is this story, exactly? It is a novel starring the super-sized Esmerelda, a sloppy mother/chef/lover whose offspring, Marat and Robespierre (of course), take very different courses in life.

The French Revolution shows that the family is history and history is family. No matter how hard you try, you can't erase the flaws of history and family, and you can't overcome them. But you can take what you have and shape it into a completely new narrative. And, boy oh boy, is this book ever a new narrative!
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