Archives for French Revolution

#Bookreview ‘The Warlow Experiment’ by @alixnathan #literary #historical

This is a story of two men. One plays at being a god. The other grabs a chance to escape poverty. The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan is about power, ambition, control, the disintegration of respect and vanishing of common sense. What a breath of fresh air this book is; it is so unusual. The country gentleman who conducts the experiment, Powyss, is an isolated character. He has no family and, when he has the idea of experimenting with the life of another man, thinks he is doing good by supporting the man’s family. In truth he seeks the approbation of the Royal Society. Warlow is a farm labourer who scrapes a living at the edge of starvation, struggling to feed this family. When he sees an advertisement asking for a man to take part in Powyss’s experiment, he sees it as an escape. So what is the experiment? Powyss is a man who experiments with exotic seedlings and plants. He sources them from abroad and studies them, experimenting with conditions – soil, temperature, water – to see which flourish in the climate of the Marches climate. It is a short step for him to wonder how a man would fare
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Birdcage Walk

Birdcage Walk is the last novel by the incomparable Helen Dunmore who moved between subjects and periods with ease, setting the dramatic minutiae of people’s lives against the huge social events of the time. War, spies and, in Birdcage Walk, the French Revolution and how its impacts on a family in Bristol. The novel opens as a walker and his dog discover a hidden grave in the undergrowth of a derelict graveyard. He reads the inscription to Julia Elizabeth Fawkes but subsequent research finds no information about her. This is followed by a short night-time scene in 1789 of a man burying a body in woods. We do not know the location, his identity or that of the body. How are these two things connected? For the first half of the book, I forgot these two short scenes until growing menace made me recall it and read faster. It is 1792. This is the story of young wife Lizzie Fawkes, new wife of Bristol builder John Diner Tredevant and daughter of writer Julia Fawkes. Diner, as he is known, is developing a grand terrace of houses on the cliffs at Clifton Gorge, a development for which he specifies the best,
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The French Lesson

This is an entertaining account of Henrietta Lightfoot’s time in the Paris of 1792 during the French Revolution, a period of which my knowledge is scanty. The French Lesson is a women’s story told with authority by social historian Hallie Rubenhold, at a time when the new order replaced the old and changed women’s lives in the process. Years after the event, Hettie writes her account of what happened at the request of a benefactor. As the novel opens, she is living in Brussels with the love of her life, George Allenham, 4th Baron Allenham of Herberton, expecting to be married and so calling herself Mrs Allenham. But when Allenham’s mysterious work takes him to Paris, he does not return. She receives a letter from him saying Paris is dangerous and though he must stay there for his work, she must return to England for her safety. But Hettie follows her heart to Paris. With the Revolution threatening, she is attacked, robbed, rescued and so finds herself indebted to Mrs Grace Elliot, an English woman who survives in Paris as a lover to rich important men. Hettie is drawn into this life too. The French Lesson is an enjoyable account of a fast-paced,
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Categories: Book Love.