Monday, December 12, 2016


I've read about the French Revolution since I was a kid, but Peter McPhee's Liberty or Death is the first book I've ever read that was totally devoted to it. And I'm not sure if it's a function of my being American and not all that familiar with France, or if it's simply an effect of the exhausting detail peculiar to monographs, but this book, although worth reading, dragged in a lot of spots. I'm willing to bet that I have a decent grasp of basic French geography, but mentioning every village in France, as it sometimes seems the author did, is a bit confusing. And the detail was so overwhelming that the major events that I thought I did know--the decision to execute Louis XVI, the fall of Robespierre-- I actually missed in the narrative, and had to reread the pages before to see what I had missed. There was some detail about a part of the Revolution I had never known about --the insurrection in the Vendee (the bit of France that sticks out into the Atlantic the farthest)--and the lead up to the Revolution was covered very well.
But if you're not a history buff, this book is going to bore you.

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