Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ABC Historical Fiction Challenge, Mistress of the Revolution

I am slowly working my way through this challenge, but I have to admit, I'm not doing so well on the deadlines. When the letter is posted, you have a fortnight to read and post the review. Well, I am trying, but so far I have only read letters, E, F and G. My review for Etta will be late posting, and so will the letter G. For the letter G, I read The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, by C. W. Gortner. I'll post this after the print review is published, so sorry for that delay.

However, I do have a posting for the letter F. The book is Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors. The location is of course France which will fulfill the requirement for this letter.

Catherine Delors, Dutton, March 2008, $25.95,HC,464pp, 978-0-525-95054-7.

Mistress of the Revolution is the story of Gabrielle de Montserrat, a survivor of the French Revolution. Gabrielle, although of noble birth, is raised in a convent as her own mother turned her away. At the age of fifteen she is taken home to live with her brother and mother and although her mother loathes her, it soon becomes clear that her brother is enamored by her. During this time she loves to ride and during an outing meets Pierre-Andre Coffinhal a local commoner. They fall in love and plan to marry but when her brother the Marquis discovers the mismatch he is furious. As her guardian, without recourse, she is forced to marry a much older, cousin who beats her and treats her as nothing more than a common whore. He dies suddenly leaving her and her young daughter with no means of support. Desolate and alone, she accepts a generous offer to live in Paris with the Dutchess d’Arpajon who becomes her mentor, protector and confidant. She becomes a kind friend, but fearing her own death and what would certainly cause financial hardship for Gabrielle, the Dutchess encourages her to seek male companionship. Her future is bleak for a woman without means in Paris, but her beauty attracts many men with numerous proposals, although without a dowry, marriage is not an option.

Delors recounts compelling horror with terrifying details of this unsettled revolutionary period of time in France. The political turmoil of the day is the backdrop of Gabrielle’s story and it is through her eyes we witness this bloodbath known as The Reign of Terror.
The real historical figures in Gabrielle’s story are many including Marie-Antoinette, Louis the Sixteenth, Pierre-Andre Coffinhal, Robespierre, Lafayette and countless others. Gabrielle did not live, but her character is full of spirit and has a tenacious will to survive. Gabrielle’s existence is fragile at best and Delors uncovers the drama and tenuous journey women had to tread during the late 18th to early 19th century through her pathetic and unhappy story. This is a heartbreaking, tear brimming story with well researched details of the French Revolution which shouldn’t be missed.

Disclosure: I purchased Mistress of the Revolution for my own enjoyment.


Rowenna said...

I've seen this one around--thanks for the review! By the way, the painting featured on the cover is one of my favorites...that shouldn't play into whether I pick up the book, though, should it ;) ?

Liz said...

I only sporadically do thi sone -- I have trouble with the "alphabet" aspect and having to read the book within a certain time frame. My life doesn't always work out that way, especially with getting books from the library, where I'm at the mercy of when my "holds" come in. All that said, I have an "F" book, too, a generational saga, called "Her Mother's Hope," by Francine (there's my "F") Rivers, who also wrote "Redeeming Love." It starts out in Switzerland, then Marta feels to live life on her own terms, which takes her through Europe, Canada, and finally California. The storyline is based on the author's own family heritage, which I like.

Terra said...

Hi, I found you on LibraryThing, and came here for a visit. This book looks like one I would enjoy, though of a difficult time.

The Bookworm said...

This sounds really good, I enjoy historicals. I'll have to add this to my wish list.
Great review :)

TheWeirdGirl said...

Dont feel bad, I'm still on B, then again I've been skipping around. I would strongly recommend my B book, Bedlam South, to anyone in search of a good read for the challenge.