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The Gods Are Thirsty: A Novel of the French Revolution Hardcover – October 1, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A writer would seem to be the ideal protagonist of a historical novel, since writers are by nature obsessive, if not always reliable, observers and chroniclers of their times. Prolific writer Lee (The Book of the Mad) has chosen Camille Desmoulins, vitriolic pamphleteer and one of the catalysts of the French Revolution, to serve as her narrator. She follows him from his first public act (inciting a crowd to riot) in the summer of 1789 through years of political and social intrigue to his beheading in the spring of 1794. Desmoulins, contending with his chronic stammer, self-doubt and turbulent emotions, is curiously unappealing in his role as histrionic media pundit. His importance to the novel should hinge on his observation of, and relationship to, the large cast of characters surrounding him, but readers may not consider him a guide worth following. His wife, Lucile, is portrayed in an immaculate manner that prevents her from ever becoming more than a saintly caricature. Lee's decision to alternate between first- and third-person narration is sometimes confusing, as well. Her depiction of Paris and the politics of revolution is thoroughly detailed, though the novel sometimes feels like a bloody, 18th-century version of C-SPAN as the National Assembly, as well as clubs like the Jacobins and Cordeliers, are bogged down in endless debates, accounts of which slow the narrative. Violent mobs careen through the streets with tidal regularity while political leaders enjoy the fruits of their revolutionary labors?wine, women and rhetoric. The best historical novels breathe life into their characters and make readers feel they have traveled in time, but the people here remain history-book figures to the bloody end. 50,000 first printing; $30,000 ad/promo.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Lee, acclaimed for her fantasy novels Blood Opera Sequence and The Secret Books of Paradys, which combine horror and eroticism in her lush, lyrical prose, has found a historical period worthy of her talents. From the fall of the Bastille through the Reign of Terror, the French Revolution was a time of excesses, both sensual and horrifying, and Lee portrays it through the eyes and person of writer-revolutionary Camille Desmoulins. Focusing on the period from 1794, when his writing urging moderation and clemency led to his beheading at the hands of his old friend Robespierre, Lee captures the spirit of a tumultuous time and interweaves moving accounts of Camille's courtship, marriage, and fatherhood. Compared with Hilary Mantel's well-received treatment of the same period and persons, A Place of Greater Safety (1993), this is even more impressive historical fiction. By paring and broadening strokes, Lee creates indelible impressions--from the surging, rampaging crowds to the avaricious Madame Guillotine and the experience of feeling her blade--and makes history live. A stunning achievement. Michele Leber
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover; First Edition edition (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879516720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879516727
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,446,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 22, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Tanith Lee's obsession with the French Revolution has given us one of those most lucid novels since Tale of Two Cities, and as Lee's book concerns the participants, I would dare say that it is the better of the two.
The novel begins shortly before the French Revolution. The nobles have the power, the poor and starving and there's plenty of freefloating oppression to go around. Through the eyes of the narrator we see the revolution take form and topple an entrenched monarchy and even though we know what is going to come next, Lee's prose makes these scenes exhilarating.
As the book shifts into the days of the Terror, the exhilaration turns to repulsion as the calls for mass execution are heeded and Robespierre seemlessly transforms himself from an idealistic senator into a mass executioner, all for the sake of the revoultion.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "teencynic" on July 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for a typical Tanith Lee (if there is such a thing, knowing Tanith) book, this will come as a surprise. For not only is this out of the sci-fi range, but also hideously long.
It is, however, an enthralling read.
Told in fragments, songs and doggerels, alternating between the first and third person (which some may find confusing), accounts, she tells of the French revolution, from the idea, the catalyst and the overwhelming bloodtide that inevitably followed a flawed idealism.
It's deftly and passionately written -an evident labour of love, but at times so convulous (spelling?) it leaves one head-scratching over her meaning.
Still, whether an old fan or just someone in search of a good read, give it a try -you may be surprised.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Philip Malthus on July 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although generally an admirer of Tanith Lee, this left me disheartened and gravely disappointed. I'm familiar with the historical period, and enjoy historical novels, but this was disorganised, inchoate and shapeless, and desperately in need of a heavy editorial hand. I think the reason this couldnt find a publisher for years is not due to the length of it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Will the Singer on February 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Tanith Lee is one of my favorite writers. This book is a big departure for her, and I get the impression writing it was a dream of hers. It is top-rate historical fiction. It starts out a bit slow, but after it got me, I couldn't put it down. I wanted more after I finished it. I can't wait to check out all the facts with a non-fiction history. Lee creates colorful, fleshed-out, human characters out of figures that have become mere historical stick figures.
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